Rebounding Continues to be a Strong Suit
Courtesy: Mat Schlissel, TowsonTigers.com  
Release: 12/02/2012
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On Saturday night, Towson out-rebounded UMBC 43-34 but fell to the Retrievers, 66-62  at the RAC (Retriever Activities Center).  

That was the seventh straight time the Tigers had out-rebounded or tied their opponent on the boards. Last year, Towson averaged 35.8 rebounds per game, while their opponents averaged just 33.7 per game.  

In 2012-13 Towson is averaging nearly 40 rebounds per game and allowing nearly 31. Last year, good rebounding was a necessity for an inexperienced team that shot just 37 percent from the field. This season with the offense not running on all cylinders yet with so many new pieces, the main constant has been the work on the boards.  

Leading the way has been junior Jerrelle Benimon who pulled down 16 rebounds against UMBC. Benimon is now averaging 9.9 rebounds per game and around 14 points per game. Benimon went 4-of-8 from the floor, had two blocks, two steals and three assists Saturday night.  

"His numbers are good," said Towson head coach Pat Skerry after the UMBC game. "We didn't get him enough shots. He's clearly our most talented guy. He's capable of more."  

Towson's other big man - grad student Bilal Dixon - has been strong on the boards this season, averaging 7.1 per game. Dixon had just five boards against UMBC as he struggled to contain 6-10 center Brett Roseboro, who had 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting.  

The offense is a work-in-progress right now. Despite the Tigers' size up front with 6-8, 250-pound Benimon and 6-9, 250-pound Dixon, Towson tends to settle for 3-point shots instead of pounding it inside, working the ball around or taking it to the hole. Against UMBC, Towson went just 7-of-22 (31 percent) from deep and shot just 20-of-54 (37 percent) from the field overall. The Tigers are shooting 33 percent for the season (39 for 117) from beyond the arc.  

"When you shoot the percentages we're shooting, you either have bad shooters or you are taking bad shots," said Skerry. "There is no other explanation for it. You can't do that on the road. Our big emphasis before the game was to not settle for [3-pointers]. We didn't shoot a good enough percentage. That's not how we are built."  

Skerry has higher expectations for this team than he did last year's because he knows what they are capable of. Dixon, Benimon and junior guard Mike Burwell played in the Big East and Towson's freshman class was highly regarded on paper. But against UMBC, with junior Marcus Damas out with an injury, the Tigers had five starters who had not seen the floor last season in a Towson uniform. There's a lack of continuity that continues to impede the Tigers on the offensive end.  

Towson is not only out-rebounding its opponents by nearly 10, but also holding its opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field. But that, unfortunately, hasn't translated into a winning record in the first seven games. With a tougher schedule coming up, the Tigers' offense will have to step up on the offensive end.  

"We should be better than 3-4," said Skerry.  "We're under-achieving right now. This team hasn't figured out what it takes to win and how to win. They work pretty hard, they compete and they want to win, but they don't understand what winning means. [We have to improve our] shot selection, understanding time and score, not breaking out of a set and not settling for threes. Until we do that, we'll lose games that we shouldn't."

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