Towson loses late lead against Charleston, falls in CAA semifinals for third consecutive year

By Jake Shindel, men’s basketball reporter

With 4:12 remaining in the second half of Monday night’s CAA men’s basketball semifinal matchup, No. 5 Towson men’s basketball led No. 1 Charleston by seven.

Then the scoring stalled for Towson, which only scored one point for the rest of the game on a free throw from graduate student forward Charles Thompson. 

Thompson fouled out of the game with 1:10 remaining. Towson gave up a wide-open dunk to Charleston junior forward Ante Brzovic, which gave Charleston a two-point lead. Sophomore guard Christian May had a chance to tie the game with a one-and-one from the free-throw line with 20 seconds remaining. However, he airballed the free throw. 

Charleston scored 13 points in the final 3:11, including three free throws in the final 17 seconds from junior guard Reyne Smith to ice the game. Smith finished with a team-high 16 points after scoring just four in yesterday’s win over Monmouth. Towson fell in the semifinals, 61-56.

The loss is the third consecutive year Towson has fallen in the semifinals, and it has come at the hands of Charleston the last two years.

Thompson’s absence in the final minute hurt the team, which let Charleston poke free a couple of rebounds.

“We got sped up,” Towson coach Pat Skerry said of the final four minutes. “We went small; it helped us yesterday. We had… a couple of rebounds that we secured, and then we got it knocked out of our hands, which ended up hurting us.”

Before he fouled out, Thompson finished with 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks. He had a significant presence in the first half, scoring 11 points on an efficient five-for-eight shooting. He didn’t pick up a single foul until the second half.

Charleston made adjustments on Thompson in the second half, holding him to three points and no rebounds. Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said he runs a Tyler Hansbrough drill with the team. It stems from his time coaching at Wake Forest when he would have to gameplan for the physicality the UNC product brought.

“I thought early in the game, he looked like [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar],” Kelsey said. “He was just doing whatever the heck he wanted out there. He was catching the ball wherever he wanted.”

But Kelsey and the Cougars made adjustments at halftime to take the ball away from the first half’s leading scorer.  

“We had a little aggressive counseling session in the huddle and had another one at halftime, and I thought our guys just did a better job of defending him in the post and making his catches hard. He’s a good player,” Kelsey said. 

Skerry said foul trouble played a big part in Thompson’s less effective second half. Charleston ran more screens with Brzovic, which Thompson struggled to get through, leading to a couple of fouls. 

Towson held Brzovic, a member of the All-CAA First Team, to six points, with his dunk at the end being the difference-maker. Graduate student guard Bryce Butler’s 13 points also played a big factor for the Cougars. Butler and junior guard Kobe Rodgers came up big in the second half, with the combined 15 points accounting for half of Charleston’s 30 points. 

The Tigers were led by CAA Rookie of the Year guard Tyler Tejada, who scored 16 points. Redshirt freshman guard Dylan Williamson scored 13 points for the Tigers, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Charleston.

“Great ball game; Charleston’s a terrific team,” Skerry said. “I’m proud of our fight. We’re obviously disappointed in the ending.” 

Jake Shindel has been a member of The Towerlight since the fall of 2020. He has served as a writer, associate editor, Editor-in-Chief, Sports Editor, and now Deputy Sports Editor. He has also held internships with The Daily Record and Baltimore Fishbowl, as well as PressBox Online, the Baltimore Blast, and Towson Sports Network.


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