What was expected to be an evenly matched showdown for first place in the East Coast Conference turned out to be the latest example of Towson State's superiority over Hofstra.
The Tigers built leads of as many as 17 points in the second half yesterday and were never really threatened as they beat the Flying Dutchmen, 74-61, before a crowd of 771 at the Towson Center.
In winning, Towson (8-6, 4-0) is off to its best league start. And Towson beat Hofstra (8-8, 3-1) for the sixth straight time -- and the seventh consecutive time at the Towson Center.
"I thought right from the beginning we executed well," Towson coach Terry Truax said. "It was a key game because Hofstra was playing with confidence and winning on the road. It was important for us because we hadn't beaten a conference team with a winning record."
Hofstra had a four-game winning streak going into yesterday's game, three of them road wins over Columbia, Rider and University of Maryland Baltimore County. But the Dutchmen fell behind by as many as 12 points in the first half, with Towson's Devin Boyd (20 points, five steals) doing early damage -- nine points in the first six minutes of the game.
"We just wanted to come out and execute the offense early and not play in their slowdown style," said Boyd, who had 12 points at the half. "I knew we could score. I was just more concerned with stopping them on defense."
Hofstra, which shared the ECC regular-season title with Towson last year, did make a run late in the first half by scoring seven straight points to cut the Towson lead to five. But the Tigers maintained a 34-29 advantage at the half despite the fact that Truax mainly played reserves in the final six minutes.
"I didn't feel it [their run in the first half] had anything to do with our substitutions," said Truax, who played all 12 players who dressed during the first half. "We just lost a little with our execution."
Hofstra's Derrick Flowers (18 points), a Milford Mill graduate, started the second with a tip-in that had the Dutchmen within four, but Chuck Lightening (16 points) scored eight points during a 16-4 run that boosted the Towson lead to 50-34 with just over 10 minutes left.
A jumper by Terrance Jacobs with 7 minutes, 31 seconds left gave Towson its biggest lead, 58-41. Hofstra, with a pressing defense, was able to cut the lead to seven after Joe Larsen capped a 12-2 run with a layup with 2:59 left. But the Dutchmen went the next two minutes without a field goal, and Towson hit 10 of 13 free throws in the final minutes.
"I didn't think the Tigers had the potential to blow anybody out," Truax said. It was his team's widest margin in its past four wins. "What concerns me is sometimes when we get a lead and are scoring easily, we experience some sloppiness in our play. With the lead, our team sometimes tends to be passive."
The Tigers have built their 4-0 conference record with three home games, but Tuesday's game at Drexel starts a three-game road stretch. In the past, ECC teams have had a tough time playing on the road. That fact should keep the Tigers level-headed after the quick start.
"It's important for us to win all our conference games, especially to take care of our home games," Boyd said. "I think what's helping us now is that we have better balance and a lot of guys are contributing scoring."