When the Towson men’s basketball team needed points badly Wednesday night at Morgan State, it didn’t turn to leading scorer Brian Fobbs or sharpshooter Allen Betrand or freshman phenom Jason Gibson.
Big man Nakye Sanders answered the call.
With the Bears using a 13-0 run to trim an 18-point deficit in the second half down to five, Sanders, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound redshirt senior forward, slammed home a dunk with 9:38 left in the second half to give the Tigers their first basket in six minutes, 13 seconds. Sanders then scored five more points to fuel an 8-2 run that gave Towson a nine-point advantage en route to a 76-59 victory at Hill Field House in Baltimore.
Sanders finished with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting, six rebounds and two assists and acknowledged that he felt there was a void to be filled.
“As a senior and a leader on this team, I felt like I had to step up,” said the Duquesne transfer, who was three points shy of his season high in a 76-73 loss to Buffalo on Nov. 22. “I got two early fouls in the first half that kind of knocked me off of my rhythm. But I came back and just tried to make the plays for my team.”
Coach Pat Skerry said the Tigers, who improved to 4-4 with their second consecutive victory, are more dangerous when Sanders is on the floor.
“When he stays out of foul trouble — and he’s getting better — he’s a big factor,” Skerry said. “He’s 6-8 and 240, and he moves well, he finishes, he has a feel, and he plays through contact. We want to play through him, and you’ve seen it in games. In the second half at Florida, he was on the floor and he was a big presence for us. He’s going to be key if we’re going to get where we think we’re capable of going.”
Prior to Sanders’ heroics, Betrand carried the Tigers offense. The 6-5, 200-pound sophomore shooting guard scored seven points in the first half before taking a seat with 9:07 after picking up his second personal foul.
In the second half, Betrand ignited an 11-0 run with eight points on two three-pointers and a pair of free throws. Bears coach Kevin Broadus called a timeout after Betrand's last three-pointer gave Towson a 50-32 advantage with 15:51 remaining.
“My teammates were making the right plays and they found me,” said Betrand, who scored a game-high 17 points. “I was open, and I shot the ball the way I’m supposed to. We just ran our offense.”
Fobbs finished with 18 points and a game-best six assists, and provided the game’s most thrilling moment when the 6-5, 210-pound senior shooting guard elevated for a thunderous left-handed dunk over Morgan State’s 6-9 forward Jamar Brown and drew a foul in the process. The play brought many fans to their feet and elicited a series of prolonged oohs and aahs.
“At first, I was thinking about passing it because it was a three-on-one,” Fobbs said. “But I just saw it, and I kept going, and I was like, ‘You know, let me just try it.’ It worked.”
Senior shooting guard Stanley Davis Jr. paced the Bears with team highs in both points (14) and rebounds (seven), but missed a significant amount of time after appearing to injure his left knee on a collision in the lane.
But what really hurt Morgan State (3-7) was committing 18 turnovers that Towson converted into 36 points. Skerry credited assistant coach Pat O’Connell with switching the team to a 3-2 zone near the end of the first half.
“We went zone late in the first half, and I thought that gave us a little cushion,” he said. “We got some turnovers out of the zone that led to transition and some three-point plays. Then our defense finally settled in the way it’s supposed to look in the second half. We got out in transition and made some plays.”