TOWSON, Md. - Junior forward Robert Nwankwo registered career highs with 17 points and 14 rebounds as the Tigers improved to 2-3 by holding off stubborn UMBC to hand the winless Retrievers (0-6) an 82-77 loss in the 51st meeting between the two local schools.
The Tigers, who never trailed in the game, clinched the victory in the final seconds on a clutch defensive play by sophomore guard Troy Franklin. With the Tigers clinging to an 80-77 advantage and the Retrievers setting up for a final shot, Franklin stole the ball at midcourt from UMBC's Chris De La Rosa and passed to Nwankwo, who was all alone for a dunk that settled the issue, helping the Tigers snap a three-game losing streak.
"Every game is different in college basketball," said Tiger head coach Pat Kennedy. "You have conference games, non-conference games and then you have neighborhood games. This was a neighborhood game. They were desperate to get a "w" and Randy (Monroe) does a heckuva job with his guys. They're young and a tough bunch of kids. We had to convince our guys this was going to be a huge battle for us, as is every game is going to be for us."
Nwankwo, who shot 8-for-9 from the floor, posted the second "double double" of his college career. In addition to his game high 14 rebounds, he had four blocked shots.
Senior guard Josh Thornton, who scored 17 of his game high 23 points in the first half, hit back-to-back three-pointers in the opening minutes as the Tigers jumped out to a 10-3 lead. The Tigers, who led by as much as 39-24 in the first half, owned a 44-37 advantage at halftime. In the first half, the Tigers shot 50 per cent from the floor and made 8 of 13 three-point field goal attempts. Thornton was 5 of 7 from long range.
The Retrievers scored the first basket of the second half to cut their deficit to 44-39. However, Towson responded with a 7-0 run to grab a 51-39 lead with 17:48 remaining.
UMBC gradually trimmed its deficit and pulled to 69-65 with 6:25 remaining when freshman Shawn Grant nailed a pair of free throws. With 1:49 remaining, Grant hit a three-point basket to cut the lead to 75-73.
After Nwankwo's rebound layup with 1:19 left put Towson ahead by 77-73, the Tigers struggled at the free throw line. In the final 62 seconds, they made only three of six free throw attempts, keeping UMBC's hopes alive. Trailing by 79-75, Grant cut the deficit to 79-77 when he hit a driving layup with 16 seconds remaining.
With 14 seconds left, Franklin was fouled, making one of two free throws, giving UMBC a chance to tie the game. As De La Rosa dribbled upcourt, Franklin stole the ball and fed Nwankwo to seal the win.
Grant, who led UMBC with a career high 28 points, shot 10-for-14 from the floor and made four three-point baskets. Chauncey Gilliam added 13 points while Adrian Satchell scored 11 points. De La Rosa scored ten points and had seven assists.
Sophomore guard RaShawn Polk added 12 points off the bench for the Tigers, who beat UMBC for the 33rd time in series.
Towson is back on the court again this Saturday when the Tigers host Hofstra in the Colonial Athletic Association opener for both teams. Opening tip is scheduled for 4:00 p.m.