“I’m extremely pleased with our effort tonight,” said Towson head coach Pat Skerry. “There are no moral victories, but if we play that hard and execute defensively the way we did tonight, then the wins will come. Virginia is very well coach and they hit some timely three’s. They’re a Top 25 team for a reason, they make those big shots.”
Freshman point guard Kris Walden played perhaps the best game of his young career, tallying a season-high 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Playing in his first collegiate game in his home state, Walden hit a season-high three from beyond the arc. Sophomore Marcus Damas had 10 of his 13 points in the second half to keep Towson (0-13) within striking distance late.
Virginia (12-1), which is ranked in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Top 25, was paced by Sammy Zeglinski’s game-high 20 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Towson held two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Week Mike Scott to just seven points.
Towson quickly quieted the raucous crowd by scoring the first six points of the game. Virginia did not get on the scoreboard until a Zeglinski lay-in 4:17 into the contest. Tiger sophomore Erique Gumbs then hit one of two from the free throw line and Walden drilled a deep three to put Towson up 10-2 at the 14:36 mark of the opening half.
The Cavaliers came to life over the next eight minutes and used a 13-1 run to grab a 15-11 lead with just over six minutes remaining in the period. Walden’s second three of the night tied the game back up, 16-16, but Virginia scored the final eight points of the half to go into the intermission with a 24-16 lead despite shooting just 28.6 percent from the floor.
A Zeglinski three-point field goal early in the second half gave the Cavaliers a 30-21 lead, their largest of the evening. Tiger senior Robert Nwankwo began to make his presence felt though over the next five minutes, scoring six points during an 11-3 Towson run that cut the Virginia lead to 33-32 at the 12:56 mark.
Scott, who battled foul trouble all night, hit a jumper with under eight minutes to play to get the Cavaliers back up by eight (44-36), but Towson once again responded. Damas hit a contested jumper, Walden followed with his third three-point field goal and Nwankwo hit one from the line to make it 44-42 Virginia with just over five minutes remaining.
Consecutive three’s from Virginia’s Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon in the final minutes sealed the win for the Cavaliers as the Tigers ran out of time for one last comeback. The seven-point loss for Towson is just its second single digit loss of the season.
The Tigers shot an impressive 56.0 percent in the second half against Virginia, which is the second best team in the country in scoring defense. Towson had just four turnovers in the second half.
Nwankwo made his presence felt on the defensive side of the floor, swatting a season-high five shots. The senior currently ranks fourth in the CAA in blocked shots. The Tigers also controlled the paint, outscoring Virginia 16-8 down low.
Towson resumes Colonial Athletic Association play Monday against Northeastern. The Tigers and Huskies will battle at the Towson Center Arena starting at 7 p.m.