By: Jonathan Munshaw, Editor-in-Chief
The Towson Tigers looked to be in control of Saturday’s game against James Madison on two different occasions. Both times, they gave up the lead. Both times, they fought back to at least tie the game.
However, the Dukes had the final strike, as junior guard Ron Curry made a buzzer-beating jumper with no time remaining to hand Towson its eighth conference loss of the season, 63-61.
“We’ve lost a half dozen really close games, and that’s on me,” Head Coach Pat Skerry said after the game. “I don’t have them where they need to be to win close games.”
JMU (14-11, 7-5 CAA) got out to an early 5-0 lead, forcing Skerry to call a timeout. A jumper from freshman guard Byron Hawkins, who made his 14th start of the season Saturday, eventually tied it up again.
The Tigers (11-14, 4-8 CAA) took their first lead of the game with 11:27 remaining in the first, as Morsell sunk a three, but JMU quickly grabbed it back with a three of their own. Junior guard Four McGlynn snatched the lead back by sinking his first three of the game over two Duke defenders, making the game 19-18 with 10:43 remaining in the half.
By the under-eight timeout, the Tigers, who were wearing a new alternative light blue uniform for autism awareness, had pushed their lead to 23-20 after freshman forward Mike Morsell drove into the lane and made a finger-roll layup, and a John Davis dunk put them up 27-20 with about six minutes remaining. The seven-point lead was Towson’s largest of the game.
JMU went on to tie the game up at 29, but sophomore forward Walter Foster had a put-back layup with 1:45 remaining to put them back up by two, and a pull-up shot by Hawkins from the elbow pushed the lead back to 33-29.
On the Dukes’ final possession of the half, though, they were able to regain the lead after a foul from Hawkins put Curry on the line. He made his first free throw and missed the second, but sophomore forward Yohanny Dalembert, the brother of NBA center Samuel Dalembert, collected the rebound and put it in as time expired, making the game 35-33 at half.
The Tigers stormed out of the half and scored five straight points to regain the lead. With 16 minutes left in the game, Towson had out-rebounded James Madison 24-15 and Davis had five.
Graduate forward Alex Gavrilovic scored his first four points of the game to extend Towson’s lead to 45-39. JMU started to push back again, but Morsell took an inbounds pass from Hawkins the length of the floor and made a layup to give the home team a four-point lead again.
The Dukes took back the lead on a 5-0 run, making the game 54-50 with 7:31 remaining, but a technical foul on James Madison put McGlynn on the line, who came in ranked third in the country in free-throw percentage, only made one of his two attempts, pulling the Tigers to within three. The Tigers finished shooting just 11-for-22 from the line for the game.
“No one tries to miss them,” Skerry said. “We have guys who work hard at it in practice.”
McGlynn finished the game with just four points in 21 minutes, but came in second on the team averaging 11.4 points per game and shooting 37.6 percent from three.
McGlynn has seen a drop-off in minutes lately, playing just 18 minutes on Wednesday in Towson’s loss to Northeastern. He’s attempted four or fewer shots in four of his past six games as well, after scoring in double figures in eight out of his first 10 games this year.
Skerry said McGlynn isn’t dealing with any injuries.
“You want to get him shots, but he is small and he’s got to work harder off the ball and has to run better in transition,” Skerry said. “It becomes, ‘Can we do a good job of finding him [on offense?]’ And does he work well enough in spacing? He’s a good player, an intelligent player, but I wonder what you have to do when you can’t get shots. He did a lot today. We become a different team when he scores the ball, but this team wasn’t going to just let him score. It’s something we’ll have to study on tape.”
Towson’s offense stagnated for the remainder of the game. Foster, junior forward Timaj Parker-Rivera and Davis all played in the final three minutes of the game, making offensive spacing a problem.
With just over a minute left in the game, sophomore forward Tom Vodanavich got to the line with a chance to ice the game for James Madison, but he air-balled his first attempted and missed the second off the rim. Davis went down to the other end of the floor and made a layup, pulling the Tigers to within two.
On the Dukes’ next possession, Curry missed a layup and Davis grabbed his 10th rebound of the game for a double-double, but Morsell was injured coming back down the floor, and the Tigers were forced to take a timeout with 31.6 seconds left on the clock. Curry finished the game shooting 7-for-15 from the floor for 27 points, and had three rebounds and three assists as well.
On the ensuing possession, Davis was fouled and he tied the game at 61 with 24 seconds remaining.
Curry dashed the hopes of the over 3,000 fans in SECU Arena, taking an isolation play with the clock winding down and sinking a jumper that was just inside the three-point arc.
“He’s a great player, he made a great shot. We try to pride our defense on forcing them to take tough twos, and we didn’t let him into the lane,” Skerry said. “My philosophy is, if we’re going to lose, we’re going to lose gloriously.”