A Look Back at the Comfort Suites Invitational
Courtesy: Athletics Media Relations  
Release: 11/22/2012
The Towson Tigers men’s basketball team went to Richmond, Ky. this past weekend searching for an identity.
Were they the team that allowed 75 points and struggled to finish shots as they did against College of Charleston (75-58 loss) or were they ready to step up to the challenge?
After the Charleston loss, the team struggled with consistency against Goldey-Beacon in an exhibition, winning 72-64, but allowed 47 points in the second half after only allowing 17 in the first half.
So establishing a consistent defensive effort was one of the goals for Pat Skerry's squad as they prepared for the Comfort Suite Invitational, which featured four games in four days.
The Tigers opened with former Big South rival Radford on Friday, Nov. 16, defeating the Highlanders, 75-67. Juniors Marcus Damas and Jerrelle Benimon combined for 40 points, but the defensive effort was a bit spotty. They Tigers held Radford to just 30 percent shooting in the first half and led 33-24 at the break. But in the second, Radford shot a sizzling 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) and were helped by 17 Towson turnovers, including seven by Benimon. But the Tigers won the game with their board-work as they outrebounded the smaller Highlanders, 45-27.
Towson next faced the host of the Invitational, Eastern Kentucky, at McBrayer Arena on Saturday night. Towson got behind in this one, trailing by six at the half, 34-28. The Colonels shot 46 percent from the floor, while Towson shot 41 percent. The second half didn't exactly go as envisioned either, as the Tigers were down by 10, 48-34 with 12:34 left. But they clawed and scratched their way back to take a 54-53 lead on a jumper by sophomore Rafriel Guthrie with 2:46 left.
Neither team could take control down the stretch as the Tigers turned it over twice at critical points of the game. However, the Colonels couldn't take advantage and the game went to overtime tied at 58.
Towson did have three leads in overtime but couldn't sustain it. When Damas tied the game on a jumper with 13 seconds left, it looked as though the game might go to a second overtime. But with 1.4 seconds left, Benimon was called for a foul on Deverin Muff, who was attempting a short jumper. Muff made both free throws and Eastern Kentucky had to feel fortunate to win the game, 71-69, on a call that probably could have been let go at that point in the game.
Guthrie led the team with 16 points off the bench, while Benimon added 12 points and 16 rebounds. Towson outrebounded another opponent by a wide margin, 43-30. The Tigers shot 45 percent from the field and held Eastern Kentucky to 39 percent shooting. Once again, turnovers were an issue, as Towson committed 17, led by freshman Jerome Hairston's seven.
So the Tigers went into their Sunday night meeting with Kennesaw State, 1-2, after a tough loss. Towson started the game off with a commanding 36-21 lead and held on for a 69-63 win. Hairston bounced back with a strong game as he scored 15 points, and more importantly, had just two turnovers. Benimon was outstanding again with 18 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
Towson shot 53 percent from the field and held Kennesaw State to 36 percent shooting. The game became a little too close for comfort at the end as Kennesaw State shot 7-for-11 from beyond the arc in the second half. Towson also struggled at the foul line in the second half, going just 12-for-21 (57 percent).
The Invitational finally ended on Monday against an NAIA opponent in Cincinnati Christian. The Tigers won 79-40 and this was never really a contest as senior Bilal Dixon used his size early to dominate inside with 10 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in 20 minutes against the much smaller Eagles. Junior guard Mike Burwell led the Tigers with 18 points, while Damas added 12. Towson outrebounded the Eagles, 46-22, while shooting 57 percent from the field. Skerry was able to unload his bench and was able to play all three walk-ons, including junior Christian Collins, graduate student Bryan Blackstone and freshman Jeremy Schulkin.
The 39-point margin of victory Monday was Towson's largest since a 122-58 win over Buffalo on March 7, 1992.
The weekend turned out to be a success as the Tigers won three of four games and were a play away from going 4-0.
Benimon was solid with 44 rebounds in four games and 58 points. But after five games, he's the only player who's averaging in double figures with 16.2 points per game.
After five games, the Tigers are shooting 47 percent from the field, 36 percent from beyond the arc and averaging 70 points per game. They are outrebounding their opponents, 39.8 to 28.2. The additions of Benimon (9.8 rpg) and Dixon (7.8 rpg) has made a big difference on the boards. Free throw shooting still needs work as the Tigers are shooting just 59 percent from the line and they've turned the ball over 76 times in five games.
Towson (3-2) returns to action next Monday when they face Loyola University off Cold Spring Lane at 7:30 p.m.


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