TU men’s basketball success in the CAA

By: Jordan Kendall, Senior Staff Writer

Photo by: Cody Campbell / The Towerlight

The Towson University men’s basketball team has not appeared in the NCAA tournament since 1991. That could soon change as the Tigers are currently in second place in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) as of Feb. 13. 

“We’re just a lot more connected, we got a great group of guys that are buying into what we do in the program,” junior guard Jason Gibson said. “They’re just very selfless and the more connected we are the better we play with each other.”

Last season, Towson finished 3-9 in the CAA which was good for ninth place. In a season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tigers had 14 games either canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus. That included a period from Dec. 26 to Jan. 16 when Towson waited three weeks without playing a game. 

“We’ve been able to since the summer be together and create good habits through routine,” Head coach Pat Skerry said. “Last year we didn’t have any of that and it was virtually impossible to form habits without a routine.”

One of the main factors in the success of the Tigers has been the defensive performance. As of Feb. 12, Towson leads the CAA in scoring defense allowing 64.2 points per game. The Tigers also lead the conference in opponent field goal percentage (41%) and opponent three-point percentage (32.5%). 

Junior forward Charles Thompson and senior guard Cam Holden are among the conference leaders in several defensive statistics. Thompson is second in the CAA in blocks per game at 1.6 and is eighth with 6.4 rebounds per game. Holden is third for rebounds at eight per game and second for steals at 1.8 per game.

“Defense is always about effort and concentration, and I think the guys have done a good job in both those areas,” Skerry said. “We’re gonna need that to continue to have the kind of success we want to have coming down the stretch.”

Holden is among several key transfers for the Tigers who have been significant factors this season. He was one of four transfers to join Towson this season along with graduate guard Terry Nolan Jr., senior guard Antonio Rizzuto, and junior forward Chase Paar. 

Nolan graduated from Bradley University in 2021 and averages 10 points per game. Rizzuto transferred from the University at Albany and averages 8.2 points per game and is shooting 81% from the free-throw line. Paar transferred from George Washington University and averages 3.4 points per game while shooting over 52% from the field. 

“We love the transfers, they’ve brought a lot of energy and toughness to this program and they helped us get to where we are and we’re definitely blessed,” Gibson said.

The Tigers have five regular-season games left, including two at SECU Arena. The final game will be a resumption of the Jan. 27 game vs the University of Delaware that was suspended due to unsafe playing conditions. The court was slippery and several players fell in the first half.  The game will resume at the 18:42 mark in the second half with the Blue Hens leading 38-29. 

“It’s my first time ever doing it so you’re just going to take it as a regular game,” redshirt junior guard Nicolas Timberlake said. “Play the 18 minutes out and hopefully come back and win.”

The last time Towson played in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was 1991 while members of the East Coast Conference. The Tigers were the number 16 seed in the midwest bracket and lost in the first round to the Ohio State University Buckeyes 97-86. 

Towson currently holds a winning percentage of 72% in CAA play. This would be the best since 2013 when they won 69.4% of CAA games. 

Timberlake is aware of the 31-year absence from the NCAA tournament and hopes to be a part of the team that ends the streak. 

“It would mean everything we’d be going down in history,” Timberlake said. “First time in 30 years, I’ve been trying to do it for four years and this year would be awesome if we get there.”

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