Tigers clinch top-three seed in CAA Tournament

By: Jalon Dixon, Staff Writer

File Photo by: Brendan Felch/The Towerlight

The Tigers continue to gain momentum heading into the postseason with a road win over Northeastern, 75-72, earning a No. 3 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.

“We were lucky to hang in there man,” head coach Pat Skerry said. “The guys really fought through it at the end. That is not easy on the road when you are out there that long. I am happy and proud of them.”

Towson would strike first as freshman guard Jason Gibson and senior guard Brian Fobbs hit back-to-back three out the gate to put the Tigers up 6-2.

This would only be the beginning for these two as they each finished with 18 points, with Fobbs also recording six rebounds.

“I am glad Jason is with us,” Skerry said. “He is playing at a really high level, he has a quiet confidence about him, and he is not afraid of the moment. He just gives you great trust as a coach because he sees things and he makes good decisions. He is a guy that knows how to win.”

The two teams began trading baskets until the Huskies scored seven unanswered to take the lead with 11:32 in the first half.

In what was a constant back and forth game between the two teams, ties would soon become a theme. There were 11 ties and 11 lead changes throughout the course of the game

Despite the constant trading of blows, Towson would end the half on a 17 to 10 run including freshman forward Charles Thompson’s three straight baskets in the paint. The Tigers would end the half up 34-27.

“It is March now,” Skerry said. “Whether it is good, bad, or indifferent, everyone’s got the same chance now. I am really proud of our players and our staff and how they responded after a difficult six days to start the conference season. It says a lot about our guys.”

The second half was back and forth, the largest lead by either team was five points by the Northeastern. The Huskies outscored Towson 45-41 in the second half, and led 63-52 with 6:22 remaining. A 9-0 run regained the lead for the Tigers which they held onto the remainder of the game. 

Free throw shooting was a major factor in the second half. Towson took 19 free throw attempts and hit 14. The Tigers consistent visits to the free throw line would pay dividends down the stretch as they made 14 of their 18 in the second half.

“Our guys have been incredibly mentally tough when it comes to making foul shots,” Skerry said. “We try to spend a good chunk of practice, maybe more so than ever getting free throws up. Historically over the last six or seven years, we have usually been one of the best teams in the league, if not the best at getting to the free throw line.”

Following another three from Gibson to go up 70-67, the combination of redshirt senior forward Nakye Sanders and Fobbs hit five straight free throws to take a 74-69 lead with 22 seconds left in the game.

Northeastern hit a three to bring them within two points, but Sanders hit a free throw to help Towson seal the three-point victory.

“Nakye, I am especially proud of,” Skerry said. “He was a guy at Duquesne that shot 38% from the foul line, so the fact that he has become a foul shooter that shoots in the 70s as a front court guy really speaks to his mental toughness and just how hard he has worked on his game.”

After locking up a first-round bye in the conference tournament with a win over Elon on Feb. 22, the Tigers pushed their win streak to two games as they took down Hofstra 76-65 for the first time since 2017.

“We’re 12-3 in our last 15,” Skerry said. “At this point you want to try to stay healthy, try to get a little bit better and continue to concentrate on playing the right way.”

The Pride (22-8, 13-4 CAA) struck quickly, hitting a three six seconds after the opening tipoff. This would be the start of a 10-2 run for Hofstra, forcing Towson (18-12, 11-6 CAA) to take a quick timeout to regroup.

“We needed to call a timeout,” Skerry said. “They are an explosive offensive team and they made a couple of contested ones. We needed to reset, make sure that we were really contesting and then continue to focus on what we like to call ‘finishing in the red zone.’ We did a really good job of that after the initial start.”

The Tigers soon started to gain momentum on the backs of Fobbs and Sanders who went on to score ten of Towson’s next 14 points. A three from sophomore guard Allen Betrand gave the Tigers their first lead with 7:28 in the first half. 

With 4:55 left in the half, Timberlake hit a three, leading to a 10-0 from Towson that gave them a 39-31 lead. The Tigers held the Pride without a field goal in the final five minutes of the half, as they took a 43-35 lead into halftime.

“Our will to win was so high tonight,” Fobbs said to Towson Athletics. “I am so proud of my guys for hanging in there and playing together as one. Tonight, we were getting rebounds, playing defense and attacking on offense.”

Both teams traded baskets for most of the second half. Hofstra cut Towson’s lead to 45-42 with 16 minutes left. The Tigers shot 46% from the field and extended their lead to 58-49 as Fobbs and Betrand combined for ten points over the next six minutes. 

With just over eight minutes left, Towson ended the game on a 17-10 run to clinch the victory. The Tigers held the Pride to 29% shooting from beyond the arc in the second half, and won the rebound battle 49-26 including 24 offensive rebounds. Six Towson players had at least six rebounds in the game. 

“We really went after it,” Skerry said. “We are always preaching rebounding especially on the offensive glass. It is just a philosophy that we have always had with guys that are competitive, hard playing guys that will go after the basketball. There is some technique to it, but at the end of the day it is about going after the ball.”

Fobbs led the Tigers with 21 points, and the freshman trio of Thompson, Gibson and Timberlake combined for 24 points on the night. 

“All three freshmen, Timberlake, Charles Thompson, and Jason Gibson, they are not freshmen anymore,” Skerry said. “Right now we can think of them as freshmen, but more so than that, all three guys are good, outstanding teammates.”

Up next, the Tigers await the start of the Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament where they will once again take on Northeastern on Sunday, March 8 at 8:30 p.m.

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