By: Matt Hamilton, Sports Editor
Towson found itself in an all too familiar spot Friday night at Royal Farms Arena. Having played in 15 games decided by five points or less this season coming into the game, many expected the same outcome as the No. 9 Tigers took on the No. 8 seed Elon Phoenix in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
In a game that featured 10 lead changes and no lead larger than six points, Towson (12-20) fell to Elon (15-17) in overtime, 74-69, to end its season.
Head Coach Pat Skerry said the ability to be in close games with anyone is nice, but he wants more.
“We just had a lot of records in my tenure at Towson,” he said. “I think this year we set a record for most close losses, which isn’t a record you want to have. … Being so close and knowing that we can play with any other team, that’s great. That’s not good enough.”
The teams went back and forth through the five six minutes, with neither team taking a bigger lead than three points. Elon guard Elijah Bryant scored five consecutive points, hitting a lay-up with 14:19 left in the half to give it a 15-12 lead.
The Phoenix continued their hot shooting from the three-point line, adding two more three-pointers and tacking on a free throw to take a 22-17 lead with 10 minutes left in the half.
The Phoenix finished 13-for-29 from three-point range, including 7-for-13 in the first half. The Tigers shot 2-for-11 from three-point range.
Junior forward Timajh Parker-Rivera imposed his will on the game toward the end of the first half, grabbing four rebounds and scoring five points in less than two minutes to help the Tigers tie the game at 26-26 with 4:15 left
Parker-Rivera finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds, tallying nine points and six rebounds in the first half. He said he told the team to focus on defensive to get back in the game.
“It’s all about stops, when you’re in that situation,” Parker-Rivera said. “I was just telling the team ‘We need stops.’ Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get some of them and a couple calls didn’t go our way near the end. It’s tough.”
Bryant got hot after Towson tied the game, hitting two three-pointers to give Elon a 33-28 lead with two minutes left in the half. He finished with 21 points on 7 of 16 shooting.
“[Bryant] got going early,” Skerry said. “He’s really good. He made some tough threes, but he’s such a good driver. … He’s a weapon, he’s got good size. He’s a [post-graduate school] kid, so his body is a little more developed. He’s versatile, he’s a tough guard.”
However, the Tigers responded with two baskets to pull within one at halftime. Parker-Rivera hit a jumper and freshman guard Mike Morsell made a lay-up to make it 33-32 at the break. Sophomore guard A.J. Astroth’s late lay-up attempt which would have given the Tigers the lead came just after the buzzer.
Despite leading in rebounding, 25-13, at half, Towson was not able to grab any momentum to regain the lead. As a team, Towson shot just 14 percent from three-point range in the period.
The teams traded buckets to begin the second half, with Morsell, freshman guard Byron Hawkins and sophomore forward Walter Foster each hitting a shot. After a dunk from Elon guard Christian Hairston, Hawkins hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 39-39 with just over 15 minutes to play.
The momentum continued to shift through the next five minutes. Morsell had four points over that time period and Foster finished a three-point play to make it 48-48 with nine minutes left in the game.
Morsell finished with a team-high 18 points in his first CAA tournament game.
“I think this experience was great,” Morsell said. “We’ll definitely come back next year better. I’ll be better.”
Elon forward Cullin Luther scored five straight points to make it 53-48, but sophomore forward John Davis answered with four points of his own to cut the lead to one again with 6:38 left.
The Phoenix pushed the lead to 60-55 with 3:51 remaining, but couldn’t close the game out. The Tigers pulled within two points with 1:02 left and junior guard Four McGlynn hit two free throws to tie the game at 62-62 with 19.9 seconds left and send the game to overtime.
Locked at 64-64 in overtime, Elon hit two consecutive three-pointers to take its largest lead of the game. Towson cut the lead to three points on three-point play from McGlynn, but could not comeback all the way.
Towson will graduate just two seniors from this year’s team and will welcome Arnaud-William Adala Moto, a transfer from Wake Forest for 2015.