RG22 Leads @Towson_MBB Road Warriors
Courtesy: Mat Schlissel, TowsonTigers.com  
Release: 02/10/2013
Towson's 90-82 overtime win over Georgia State on Saturday gave the Tigers their ninth Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) win, which guaranteed them a winning record in the conference for the first time since they joined in 2001-02.

How did they get to this point? Cynics will say it's a down year for the CAA, which is why Towson sits in second place behind Northeastern with five games left in the regular season.

Even so, it's not a down year for the Tigers. They've had 16 straight down seasons and are now two games over .500 (14-12) this late in the season for the first time since 1995-96. They are also 5-1 on the road in league games, 7-7 overall on the road and 10-7 overall away from the Towson Center.

To win on the road in any conference, you have to be physically and mentally tough. Nobody defines that toughness on Towson more than junior Rafriel Guthrie. The 6-2, 210-pound native of Washington D.C. was expected to be a lockdown defender for the Tigers, coming over from the College of Southern Idaho. Guthrie averaged 15.7 points per game, 7.7 rebounds and had 47 steals to earn honorable mention National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-America honors.

Guthrie came into the Georgia State game with a career-high 18 points scored against George Mason on Jan. 23. He scored 23 points off the bench to lead the Tigers in their overtime win in Atlanta Saturday night. Guthrie also had a team-high six assists and shot 8-of-10 from the field and 1-of-3 from beyond the arc.

The Tigers needed a big performance offensively from somebody other than leading scorer Jerrelle Benimon, who struggled against Georgia State's 1-3-1 zone trap, scoring just seven points on 2-of-6 shooting. Towson received several outstanding performances, including another big game from freshman Jerome Hairston, who has now poured in 52 points over the last three games and is averaging 13.4 points per game in his last five.

But it was Guthrie who made the difference. He's averaging 8.4 points per game but struggled offensively early in the season. He scored 16 against Eastern Kentucky on Nov. 17 and 12 against Kennesaw State on Nov. 18. In his first 15 games, Guthrie scored in double digits just twice. He also shot made just five 3-pointers in his first 24 attempts.

On Jan. 9, Guthrie's season began to turn around as he put up 15 points at home against William & Mary, shooting 7-of-14 from the field. Since that game, he's averaging 11.3 points per game and is shooting 11-of-23 from beyond the arc. His improvement has mirrored the improvement of this basketball team.

When you watch Guthrie, there's nothing really fancy or unpredictable about his game. He's has no fear about taking the ball to the basket against much bigger opponents. On Saturday against Georgia State, he made some incredibly difficult shots on drives with contact against big men like GSU's 6-10, 260-pound James Vincent.

"I was just trying to stay aggressive, "said Guthrie on Saturday on the Towson Sports Network. "(Georgia State) wants you to bomb threes, and I was putting pressure on the defense to make them guard us."

Guthrie's calling card is defense and that's something that been consistent with the junior and the rest of the team. Guthrie is second on the team in steals with 24. He's also helped Towson hold teams 39 percent shooting from the field (best in the CAA) and 30 percent from deep. On Saturday, he helped junior Mike Burwell and Marcus Damas hold freshman star R.J. Hunter to 3-of-16 from the field and 1-of-9 from the 3-point line.

Towson's defense has been key to its success throughout the season, but when the Tigers started getting more offensive production from the guards including Guthrie and Hairston, is when they went from improved squad to legitimate contender.

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