Terry Nolan Jr. and Cameron Holden have already made the kind of impact on the Towson men’s basketball team that coach Pat Skerry had hoped for.
Nolan Jr., a graduate student shooting guard and Bradley transfer, scored a career- and game-high 25 points, and Holden, a senior small forward and Tennessee-Martin transfer, added 20 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists to power the Tigers to a 76-61 thumping of visiting Penn on Tuesday afternoon before an announced 1,121 at SECU Arena.
In five games for the Tigers (3-2), Nolan, a Baltimore resident and Mt. Carmel graduate, has led the team twice in scoring and three times in assists. Holden has set team highs in rebounds in each of the team’s five games and has reached 20 points in each of his past two starts.
Skerry did not dismiss the notion that Holden and Nolan set the table for the rest of their teammates.
“We need them to,” he said. “We think they’re high-level players. [Assistant coach] Pat O’Connell did a tremendous job recruiting and finding out about Cam Holden. He’s a guy that we hadn’t recruited before, and we just jumped on him, and Pat really deserves all the credit.
“The other three transfers [Nolan Jr., junior power forward Chase Paar, and senior guard Antonio Rizzuto], I like to say we unsuccessfully recruited them [in high school], and as far as Terry and Chase went, we failed and I failed. With Antonio [Rizzuto], we failed to evaluate properly. So we were lucky to get those guys.”
After scoring nine points in the first half against the Quakers, Nolan erupted for 16 in the second, including eight points to fuel a 17-3 run over a 4:23 span that gave Towson a 58-29 advantage with 13:24 remaining.
“Just staying with it, just playing my basketball,” he said of his outing. “I’m going to have highs, and I’m going to have lows. It’s college basketball. I’ve kind of been through it. So I know that I have to stay consistent. I knew that my team needed me today. So I just had to step up.”
Nolan surpassed his previous career high of 24 points set against the Tigers on Dec. 5, 2018, when he was a member of the Braves. Although Skerry said he “unfortunately” remembered that game, Nolan said he was focused on the present.
“I saw I was having a good game, had the hot hand,” he said. “My shots were falling, I was having good looks, and my teammates just trusted me.”
Holden became only the second player at the NCAA Division I level with 20 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists since Cleveland State’s Norris Cole racked up 41 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists against Youngstown State on Feb. 12, 2011. Holden also became the first Towson player with that many points and rebounds since Jerrelle Benimon compiled 20 points and 21 rebounds at Oregon State on Nov. 29, 2012.
Of his numbers, Holden said he was most proud of the assists.
“Eight assists is something that a lot of people overlook,” he said. “That’s my main stat I’m happy about right now. I gave my teammates great shots to score.”
The Tigers shot 51.7% (30-of-58) from the field thanks to a 44-24 advantage in points in the paint. Penn coach Steve Donahue said the players and coaches understood that Towson would go to its strength on the inside.
“Pat’s teams, they crush the boards,” he said. “They maybe don’t execute certain things, but they get close to the rim, and then they go get it, and we didn’t answer that today. I give them a lot of credit. They’ve played well this year.”
Both teams were fairly even through the first 10:32 of the first half with neither side gaining an advantage of more than four points. But after sophomore forward Max Martz drained a 3-pointer to fuel a 5-0 spurt for Penn, the Tigers scored 11 unanswered points.Holden, a senior small forward, ignited the run with five points and two rebounds to give Towson a 25-15 advantage with 6:30 remaining before halftime.
The Quakers responded with an 8-4 spurt of their own before the Tigers closed out the first half with five straight points for a 34-23 lead at the break.
Sophomore shooting guard Jordan Dingle finished with 21 points and five rebounds for Penn (3-5), which played its fourth game in six days, including three games in four days as a participant in the Myrtle Beach Invitational last weekend. The team returned to Philadelphia on Sunday before arriving early for Tuesday’s game, and coach Steve Donahue said fatigue was an issue.
“I could tell pretty early on that this was going to be a struggle,” he said. “Part of it is, Towson plays really hard, and that’s not the team you want to come off of such a long trip. I’ve said this before: we may look back, and we learned a lot about how hard and how tough you always have to be and prepared for games, and we didn’t have that for long stretches today.”
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