As soon as the final buzzer sounded in Towson’s season-ending, 74-69 overtime loss to Elon in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament, Coach Pat Skerry began thinking about next year.
“Changes are coming,” he said. “I’m going to buy uniforms and put the No. 9 on every player because that’s what seed we were.”
Maybe Skerry was joking, but what happened to Towson this season was no laughing matter.
A year after Towson was the second seed and finished just two wins shy of earning its first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 1991, the Tigers finished in second-to-last place and were only good enough to beat three league teams all season.
Towson (12-20) finished its season at Royal Farms Arena on Friday night in the same manner that had defined much of its season, as the Tigers again came tantalizing close to winning in front of a sparse crowd of 2,552. The Tigers’ 11th loss by five point or fewer sent them home for good, the promise of a season in which they opened 7-1 obliterated with losses in 19 of their final 24 games.
“It hurts. It hurts,” said junior forward Timajh Parker-Rivera, who scored 12 points. “We were down late, came back to force overtime and possibly win the game and we lose by five.”
Towson’s loss to eighth-seeded Elon (15-17), which advanced to play top-seeded William & Mary in the quarterfinals on Saturday at noon, symbolized its entire season.
“It was just more of the same,” Skerry said. “The effort was great, but we were just missing something.”
But what? Towson outrebounded Elon 44-26, made 19 of 22 free throws, shot 42.9 percent (24 of 56) from the field and allowed gave up just 26 baskets in 45 minutes.
However, 13 of Elon’s baskets were three pointers, and when Towson needed someone – anyone – to take over and lead the push to victory, the Tigers couldn’t find one.
But Elon sure did. Freshman Elijah Bryant showed why he was named the league’s Rookie of the Year by scoring a game-high 21 points and at times single-handily carrying Elon against Towson, which had beaten the Phoenix in both regular-season meetings.
“Generally, when you give up 13 three pointers, you get bludgeoned,” said Skerry, whose Tigers made just two of their 11 three-point shots.
“Three pointers hurt and we gave up too many of them,” Parker-Rivera said.
Bryant made four of his nine shots from beyond the arc to lead Elon, which had four other players score in double figures – Tanner Samson (12), Austin Hamilton (12), Kevin Blake (10) and Collin Luther (11).
“You see that look in Elijah’s eyes and you know he’s hungry,” Hamilton, the Phoenix’s senior captain who finished with a game-high seven assists, said. “So you get him the ball.”
Towson was led by Mike Morsell and Four McGlynn, who scored 18 and 13 points, respectively.
When it was over, the Tigers spent more time talking about the future than the present. Towson loses just two seniors who combined to average just six points a game, and should be among the league’s most experienced teams next season. Four of the team’s top six scorers this season were freshmen or sophomores, while McGlynn, who averaged a team-high 12 points per game and Parker-Rivera (6.9 ppg) are juniors.
“We’re a young team,” Parker-Rivera said. “We’re going to be better next year.”
No. 10 College of Charleston 56, No. 7 Drexel 48
Canyon Barry led the College of Charleston with 19 points in the Cougars’ 56-48 win over Drexel in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament on Friday night.
The 10th-seeded Cougars never lead the entire first half, trailing by as much as nine, before getting their first lead with 9:31 left to play following Anthony Sitt’s three-pointer.
The Cougars (9-23) will face second-seeded UNC Wilmington (17-12) in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Joe Chealey added 11 points for the Cougars (9-23), Terrance O’Donohue added a game-high 14 rebounds to go along four points.
Drexel (11-19), who was hampered by injuries, only fielded seven players. The Dragon’s all-conference guard and leading scorer Damion Lee, a Baltimore native and Calvert Hall graduate, was sidelined with a hand injury suffered late in February.
Drexel was led by Freddie Wilson and Tavon Allen, who scored 17 and 15 points, respectively.
– Chris Swanson
At Royal Farms Arena
No. 1 William & Mary (18-11) vs. No. 8 Elon (15-17), 12 p.m.
No. 4 James Madison (19-12) vs. No. 5 Hofstra (19-12), 2:30 p.m.
No. 2 UNC Wilmington (17-12) vs. No. 10 College of Charleston (9-23), 6 p.m.
No. 3 Northeastern (20-11) vs. No. 6 Delaware (10-19), 8:30 p.m.