How about this year's version of the Towson University Tiger's basketball team? It was quite a week for Towson. The Tigers started off the week trouncing UNCW on Monday. Two days later, the Tigers crushed the Delaware Blue Hens. It gave the Tigers a season sweep of Delaware, which is always a real good thing for the Tigers and their fans.
Added to that victory, Towson beat UD in front of the largest crowd of the season at the Towson Center. Coach Pat Skerry and his team put the cherry on top of the sundae when they traveled to Atlanta and avenged an earlier loss to the Georgia State Panthers by beating them in overtime, 90-82. Most impressively, the win came with Tigers' star and possible conference player of the year, Jerrelle Benimon scoring just seven points in the ball game.
The Tigers will have the next two on the road, traveling to Harrisonburg, Va. on Tuesday to take on James Madison, and then Long Island for their first of two matchups of the year against Hofstra. The Tigers are now 9-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), and 14-12 overall. With those nine wins in the CAA, it's the first time Towson will have a winning record in the conference since joining in 2001. It also gives the Tigers 13 more victories than they had last year. There are not enough accolades for head coach Pat Skerry, his staff, and his players. This team is making all of us proud both on and, maybe more importantly, off the court.
TOWSON CENTER MOMENT #5 - A New Floor and the Wolverines
We are now in the top half of my Top 10 Towson Center moments. No. 5 goes back to the night of November 24, 1997. But it starts before then.
When the Towson Center opened in 1976, it featured a synthetic floor. This was going to be the wave of the future. It was kind of like the basketball version of Astroturf. The difference being that Astroturf. It was kind of cool when you first saw it, but like Astroturf, when you played on it, it wasn't anywhere near as good as you would have thought.
For years, there was talk of covering up the synthetic floor with a traditional wooden floor. There were teams that would not come play the Tigers because of the floor. When Louisville came to Towson to play the Tigers in 1995, nobody told the Cardinals' legendary coach Denny Crum that Towson had the synthetic floor. When he first walked in for his team's shoot-around, he looked at that floor, and Cardinal would have been a perfect color to describe his face.
Finally, in 1996 the
decision was made to get the Towson Center up to snuff by putting in a wooden floor. Then-Tiger head coach Terry Truax was charged
with trying to get a big name school to help baptize the new floor. Coach Truax was buddies with Steve Fisher, the
head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Unfortunately, when the game took place, both Truax and Fisher had been relieved of their
duties and were not at the game.
Towson vs. Michigan
When Towson played Michigan at the Towson Center that November night, the Tigers were led by first-year head coach Mike Jaskulski. Michigan was coached by a familiar local name. Brian Ellerbe had been the head coach at Loyola from 1994-1997. After being let go, he went to Michigan as an assistant to Fisher. In the fall of 1997, Fisher was let go by the Wolverines, and Ellerbe was promoted to interim head coach.
It was a brisk fall night when the Wolverines came to the Towson Center. The game was a sellout, with 5,086 folks piling into the Towson Center. It is, to date, the biggest crowd to ever watch the Tigers at home.
I arrived at the Towson Center at about 5:15 that night for the 7:30 game. Walking into the building, I saw something I didn't think I would ever see at Towson and haven't seen since: ticket scalpers. It was crazy. Because of the success of the Fab Five at Michigan, they had a lot of cache. Many who came to the game were rooting for Michigan. By the end of the night, they had switched allegiances.
Towson came out hot, leading at halftime 37-32. Shooting guard Raul DePablo set a team record with six 3-pointers that night. The Tigers as a team went 13-for-25 from behind the arc. Derrick Newton hit a 3-pointer with just under three minutes left to give Towson a 66-65 lead. The crowd went nuts.
Towson had pulled a major upset over
Louisville two years earlier and were looking for a bigger one. Michigan had some big names on this
squad. They had a beast inside in Robert "Tractor" Traylor. At guard, they had a kid from Maryland who was one of the most recruited kids in the country coming
out of high school in Louis Bullock. Traylor had an off night, scoring eight points and grabbing eight
rebounds. Bullock scored 13 points.
After Newton hit the three, Michigan scored seven straight points to take a 72-66 lead. The dagger was a long three by Robbie Reid, whose father had been a legendary coach at BYU. But the Tigers fought back. Marlin Wise, another Baltimore product, hit a three to cut Michigan's lead to 73-72. The Tigers fouled Reid who made two free throws. A desperation three by the Tigers at the end fell short, and they lost, 75-72.
Besides the two East Coast Conference (ECC) finals Towson won to go to the NCAA Tournament, I have never seen the Towson Center as electric as it was that night, despite the loss. It was a great night to be at the Towson Center. Hopefully, the new Tiger Arena will have many just like it.