Behind Zane Martin's record night, Towson surges past William & Mary in OT, 96-82

In an overtime period when it didn’t seem as if Zane Martin would ever miss, it was as much a testament as anything to the Towson men’s basketball team’s star that it didn’t matter when he did.

Martin was feeling pretty good, his Tigers up double digits against William & Mary, so he took a heat-check corner 3-pointer. The shot was short. Somehow, though, good fortune bounced his way. He ended up with the ball in his hands, and the Tigers ended up with two points on the possession. The only surprise was that he hadn’t scored them.

The sophomore guard finished with a SECU Arena-record 35 points, masterminding a second-half rally and dominating overtime in a 96-82 win Thursday night that was anything but definitive. With the victory before an announced 1,307, Towson (15-7) swept the Tribe and moved to 5-4 in Colonial Athletic Association play, one game back of second-place College of Charleston and William & Mary (13-7, 6-3) and two games behind first-place Northeastern.

The Tigers shot 83.3 percent from the field in overtime, which was only a slight improvement on their bonkers marks from the first 40 minutes: 53.3 percent in the first half and 57.1 percent in the second. Martin finished with his career high despite taking just 19 shots, hitting 13.

“Number zero was a bad, bad boy tonight,” Towson coach Pat Skerry said of Martin, who either scored or assisted on 12 of the team’s 17 overtime points. “A bad, bad boy down the stretch.”

Added senior guard Brian Starr (15 points, five assists): “It looked like everything that came out of his hand was going to go in.”

The comeback was a much-needed tonic to a stretch of some upsetting play. The Tigers' first conference loss, to CAA preseason favorite Charleston, was decisive, an 11-point setback in South Carolina to open league play. Even more emphatic were the Tigers’ first four CAA wins, the average margin of victory nearly 20 points.

But it was the second, third and fourth defeats that would have made it hard for any coach to get sleep. First, a three-point road loss to Elon decided in the final minute. Then a three-point home loss to Hofstra in which the Tigers gave up a three-point, last-minute lead and lost on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer after a too-early Tigers shot. Then a two-point overtime loss Saturday night at UNC Wilmington in which another three-point, last-minute-of-regulation lead was coughed up.

“We've had a couple of tough losses,” Skerry said. “We can't do anything about those. Hopefully, we've learned from them.”

On Thursday, it was Towson that had to come back. A 3-pointer by senior guard Deshaun Morman (13 points) tied the game at 59 midway through the second half, and the Tigers seemed to have found a way to stymie the Tribe’s potent attack, at least as much as they could against the league’s top scoring offense. William & Mary’s response was swift: eight straight points.

But Tribe sophomore forward Nathan Knight, the team’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, fouled out with 4:50 remaining. Soon a second comeback was underway. Martin hit a 3-pointer with 2:38 remaining to draw the margin to one, 75-74.

After the teams traded 2-pointers, Towson was off and running with a rebound. A lead change seemed imminent. But Martin missed an open 3-pointer from the wing, senior guard Mike Morsell (11 points, seven rebounds) was off on the put-back attempt, and a tip-in was waved off because of a push by Morsell. William & Mary forward Justin Pierce (team-high 27 points) hit a pair of free throws for a 79-76 lead, and Martin connected on just one of two the next time down.

Pierce missed a potential put-away 3-pointer, and the Tribe got greedy on the other end, gambling on a pass to Martin at the top of the arc. That cleared a path for one of the CAA’s top drivers, and Martin drew contact at the rim. A whistle followed with 11.7 seconds remaining. So did two free throws. A Tigers timeout froze the score at 79-79.

It had to stay that way for a while. With the clock winding down, Cohn handed the ball off to Pierce, who found a sliver of space down the right side of the lane. But he could not outrun 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Dennis Tunstall, who elevated for a block that looked as easy as it was clutch. The rebound ended in Morsell’s hands as the buzzer sounded.

“He always gets me in practice,” Martin said of Tunstall. “So, yeah, I knew it was coming.”

The first half saw similar swings. In the game’s opening five minutes, the Tribe scored just three points, which in Williamsburg, Va., might have qualified as enough of a minor emergency to call the National Guard. But as William & Mary saw Tigers shots continue to fall, Tribe players got the idea themselves.

William & Mary had 18 points by the first half’s midway point and 31 by the 15-minute mark. Still, it trailed by three. Then the Tigers got cold and the Tribe got white-hot. In just over four minutes, William & Mary scored 16 of the next 18 points, its shot chart a testament to modern basketball ideals: four 3-pointers, two layups and a mid-range jumper — but even that shot was open.

At halftime, the Tribe led 47-37, and three players had hit at least two 3-pointers, with five total having connected from deep. Towson, meanwhile, was just 2-for-9 from beyond the arc.

Not much had changed by game’s end. William & Mary shot just 45.9 percent from the field, but 16 of its 28 makes were 3-pointers. “Do you know hard it is to win a game when a team makes 16 3s?” Skerry asked.

Then again, Martin has a habit of making hard things look easy.

WILLIAM & MARY—Knight 4-7 0-1 8, Milon 3-13 3-3 10, Burchfield 5-9 0-1 14, Cohn 5-11 3-4 17, Pierce 9-17 4-6 27, Harrison 0-0 0-1 0, Rowley 1-3 0-0 3, Tot 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 28-61 10-16 82.

TOWSON—Thomas 2-2 0-2 4, Keith 4-8 2-2 10, Martin 13-19 6-10 35, Morsell 5-13 0-0 11, Starr 5-8 5-7 15, Tunstall 1-1 0-0 2, Gorham 3-6 0-3 6, Morman 4-7 3-3 13. Totals 37-64 16-27 96.

Halftime—William & Mary 47-37. End Of Regulation—Tied 79. 3-Point Goals—William & Mary 16-37 (Pierce 5-10, Burchfield 4-7, Cohn 4-8, Tot 1-1, Rowley 1-2, Milon 1-8, Knight 0-1), Towson 6-16 (Martin 3-6, Morman 2-3, Morsell 1-5, Keith 0-1, Starr 0-1). Fouled Out—Morsell, Knight. Rebounds—William & Mary 34 (Pierce 14), Towson 33 (Morsell 7). Assists—William & Mary 18 (Cohn 6), Towson 14 (Starr 5). Total Fouls—William & Mary 26, Towson 17. A—1,307 (5,250).

jshaffer@baltsun.com

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