By: Karuga Koinange, Sports Editor
File photo by Lexi Thompson/ The Towerlight
Towson University men’s basketball won its second regular season tournament of the year in dramatic fashion with an impressive showing in the Belfast Classic in Northern Ireland.
The Tigers (8-1) defeated the Manhattan Jaspers in the championship game Saturday night at SSE Arena, as senior guard Mike Morsell nailed a game-winning shot on the baseline to seal the 56-55 win.
“We were fortunate to win,” Head Coach Pat Skerry said. “Sometimes it’s important to be lucky just as well as good. I’m happy for our kids and our program.”
The team started off the game cold, shooting just 33 percent in the first half. They struggled to break down Manhattan’s zone defense, and could not get many open looks.
Towson was also sloppy with the ball, recording 14 turnovers in the first half. For the first time this season, the team trailed at halftime going in down by nine.
Despite the rough start, the team fought back in the second half.
The battle on the boards was a crucial component to Towson’s comeback. The team outrebounded Manhattan 42-23, including 19 offensive rebounds. The extra scoring opportunities allowed TU to get into rhythm.
“We found a way, and we’re a real gritty team,” Morsell said. “We have a bunch of veterans here, and we always believe if there’s time on the clock that we can win any game. We stuck together today during the tight moments and trusted one another.”
A few quick scores by senior guard Brian Starr and sophomore guard Zane Martin to start the second half pulled Towson within four, but the team didn’t surge ahead until late in the game.
Martin knotted the score with a free throw, and later gave the Tigers a two-point lead on a fastbreak layup with just over two minutes left in the game.
Manhattan responded with five straight points, but another score by Martin pulled Towson within one.
Trailing by one with under 15 seconds to play, senior guard DeShaun Morman missed a go-ahead jumper, but the offense secured the rebound. Martin missed on a second-chance shot, but Towson got another offensive rebound and called a timeout.
On the ensuing inbound, Morman screened a defender to open up a passing lane for Starr. Starr found Morsell along the baseline, and he hit a fadeaway jumper with 1.5 seconds remaining to seal the win.
“Mike made a great shot off of a nice pass from Brian,” Skerry said. “It’s something we work on all the time during practice.”
Towson kicked off the two-day tournament with a 67-60 win against La Salle (0-0) at SSE Arena Friday night.
The Tigers couldn’t pull away in the first half, and the game was tied at 33 going into halftime.
In the second half, the team went back to playing strong defense that has allowed them to control the pace of the game so often this season.
The Tigers held the Explorers to 20 percent shooting in the second half, and outscored their opponents 19-8 in the final seven minutes of play.
“This reminded us of something we’re going to see in the conference tournament,” Skerry said. “Kudos to the fans for coming out, the city for its hospitality and to the committee that organized this tournament. It’s special. This is a great win for us over a very good La Salle team.”
The team competed earlier in the week before the tournament as well.
The team convincingly defeated St. Mary’s College (1-3) 90-57 Monday night at SECU Arena.
Martin led all scorers with a career-high 24 points, and sunk five baskets from beyond the arc. He also tied with Morman for four assists on the night.
The home team was getting whatever look they wanted offensively, but the exclamation point was a thunderous alley-oop dunk from Morman late in the second half off a lob from freshman guard Travis Ingram.
The Tigers hope to extend their eight-game winning streak as they host Morgan State on Wednesday, Dec. 6. Tipoff at SECU Arena is set for 7 p.m.