RICHMOND, Va. - Towson will be put to the test tomorrow when it faces top-seeded Old Dominion, but for now, the Tigers can savor their convincing 91-74 victory over UNC Wilmington. The Tigers' first round victory advanced them to the quarterfinals of the Colonial Athletic Association's Championship Basketball Tournament for the fourth year in a row.
The eighth-seeded Tigers (10-20) were dominating in their first round performance, leading by as many as 30 points midway through the second half. A closing 12-2 run by the ninth-seeded Seahawks (9-22) made the game appear closer than it actually was as the Tigers scored a season high in points. The win stretched Towson's win streak to three, its longest of the season.
"This team has really emerged stronger than any team I've coached in a long time," said Tiger head coach Pat Kennedy. "Since we've gone to a three-guard offense, we're much quicker. In our last three games, we've been able to take big leads in the second half and hold them."
Towson never trailed in the one-sided victory. Sophomore guard Troy Franklin opened the scoring with a three-point basket just 14 seconds into the game to set the tone. The Tigers shot 55 per cent in the opening session that included a 5-10 showing from beyond the arc.
Sophomore guard RaShawn Polk and senior forward Calvin Lee combined for 24 first half points. With 4:04 left in the half, the Tigers had doubled up on the Seahawks, 46-23. Towson assumed a 52-30 lead at the break, registering the most points in a half this season.
Less than three minutes into the second half Towson upped its lead to 63-36. The Tigers would hold the 27-point throughout the period. At the 10:56 mark Towson owned its largest lead, 82-52, after a three-point basket by junior Brian Morris. With 3:52 left to play Towson was ahead, 89-62. UNCW outscored the Tigers 12-2 the rest of the way.
Polk led five Towson players in double figures with a game and career high 20 points. Franklin chipped in 18 points in only 19 minutes of action, shooting 6 of 9 from the field including a 4-for-5 showing from long range. Freshman Isaiah Philmore came off the bench to net a career high 14 points. Senior Josh Thornton added 13 points. Lee finished with 12 points and a game high eight rebounds.
The Tigers shot 51 per cent from the floor for the game. They outboarded the Seahawks 34-31. Towson committed 11 turnovers with nine of those coming in the second half.
"We're excited about tomorrow," Kennedy said. "We have a huge task in front of us. Old Dominion is a bigger team, more physical and stronger. But our guys have a tremendous level of confidence right now."
Tomorrow's quarterfinal game will mark the 24th meeting between the Tigers and Monarchs. ODU leads the series, 22-1. The Monarchs have beaten the Tigers 13 straight times including a sweep this year. ODU downed Towson 87-71 in the Towson Center and 78-67 in Norfolk.
The Tigers are advancing to the quarterfinals for the fourth straight year. In 2009, Towson became the lowest seed ever (11th) to advance to the semifinals when they upset Northeastern, 58-54.
Towson will be looking to improve its win streak to four games for the first time in 10 years.
The game will be carried back to Baltimore on WTMD (89.7 FM) Radio. It will also be televised on the Comcast Network (formerly CN8 out of Philadelphia).