When you lose four of your first five games, it's easy to say any win is a good win. So call Towson State's 74-50 win last night over Washington College a good win, but don't call it a thing of beauty.
It was a sluggish start for Towson against the visiting Division III Shoremen, but the Tigers, behind a solid defensive effort and the play of senior guard Terrance Jacobs, were a bit more polished at the end. Jacobs scored a game-high 20 points to lead the Tigers (2-4).
"We're in a position now where a win for us is significant," said Towson coach Terry Truax, whose team dropped two games in the Beltway Classic last week. "We didn't shoot the ball well, but we were active defensively. We were very aggressive."
Aggressive enough to hold a team under 90 points for the first time this season. Washington College (4-3) could neither shoot the ball (33.3 percent from the field) nor hold on to it (28 turnovers, 18 in the first half).
The Tigers played well below their capabilities at the start of the game, missing their first nine shots from the field. Terrance Alexander's layup with 16 minutes, 24 seconds left in the half was Towson's only field goal in the first five minutes.
But Washington College was equally bad, missing five shots and committing four turnovers in its first nine possessions. The Shoremen recovered from the poor start to take a 10-9, but a stretch in which they turned the ball over on six straight possessions put them in a hole, and by halftime they trailed Towson, 35-18.
Jacobs helped put the game away, scoring all of his 12 second-half points in the first eight minutes. The last three came on a three-pointer and gave Towson a 58-32 lead. The Tigers would lead by as many as 28.
"This is the first time in two games that I've been pleased with our effort," Truax said. "This team is a capable team. But we've got to have this type of defensive effort every night by every person."
The injury to point guard Devin Boyd has hurt the Tigers, especially in their transition game. But Truax has another theory about why his team, which returned all but one player from last year's NCAA tournament team, is off to a poor start. "Our players have paid far too much attention to what the media expects of them this season," Truax said. "All I want to do is see the team improving and developing. Not to take anything away from Washington College, but [last night] was probably not a night to evaluate our team improvement."
A better gauge will come Saturday at Cole Field House in College Park when the Tigers face Maryland. Towson has played some of its best ball this season against top-notch competition (North Carolina and Colorado) and will attempt again to reach that level against the Terrapins.
"Next week will be a good indicator for us and it will be interesting to see just where we are," Truax said. "One thing about Maryland, Coach [Gary] Williams has his team playing hard all the time. We're unpredictable. We don't always play hard and our kids think, at times, its a game where we can turn it
off and on."