In a series that lately has been close and exciting, you now can add the description "strange" after Towson State's 66-64 win at Loyola last night.
The strange ending culminated with a tip-in by Towson forward John James just before the final buzzer as the Tigers (8-11) won their fourth straight game in a finish that stunned both Loyola players and the 2,252 fans at Loyola's Reitz Arena.
"It's bizarre," said Loyola coach Tom Schneider, shaking his head in disbelief afterward.
The ending was set up with 21 seconds left, after Towson State called a timeout following one of two free throws by Loyola's Brian Pendleton that tied the game with 51 seconds left. There was a six-second differential between the 45-second clock and the shot clock.
With the shot clock running, Towson guard Craig Valentine hoisted a desperation jumper that hit off the iron just before the shot-clock buzzer sounded. As the ball fell into Towson forward Larry Brown's hands, nine players on the court -- including Brown -- froze thinking the game was over. Brown then tossed up his desperation shot, which was tipped in by James before the buzzer.
"I'd like to say I meant to do that to fake all the Loyola players out," Brown said . "I heard the buzzer go off and it didn't hit me that the game wasn't over until everyone said, 'Shoot, shoot.' "
Brown got the shot off, James put the tip in and Towson had its sixth win in its last seven games over Loyola. The game avenged Towson's 85-84 loss to Loyola last year at the Towson Center. The last three games between the two Baltimore-area rivals have been decided by a total of five points.
"Anyone who saw this game certainly got their money's worth," said Towson coach Terry Truax, in a statement later echoed by Schneider. "It's a shame someone had to lose. I don't think that either team played great, but there was some great efort."
The Tigers won their fourth game in a row despite shooting just 39 percent from the field and hitting just one of their first 11 shots of the game -- one field goal in the first 10 minutes. Towson benefitted from horrible free-throw shooting by Loyola -- the Greyhounds were 15 of 34 (44.1 percent) from the line for the game, and just seven of 20 from the line in the second half.
"Incredible" is what Schneider said of his team, which was shooting 69.2 percent from the line going into the game. "We've had games when we've missed crucial foul shots, but never like this. It was an epidemic."
Averaging just over 97 points in winning its last three games, the Tigers were awful from the field for much of the first half in hitting just one of their first 11 shots. By the time that Chuck Lightening hit a jumper with 9:02 left in the half, Towson had gone 9:25 without a field goal.
It was Loyola's smothering defense that was giving Towson problems, but after Lightening's jumper, the Greyhounds' lead, PTC 18-8, was far from dominating. The pace of the game increased after Lightening's jumper, and a 12-6 Towson run got the Tigers as close as 25-20 after a Terrance Alexander jumper with 3:57 left in the half.
But Towson wasn't helped at all by its poor free-throw shooting (six of 16), and by halftime the Greyhounds had a 31-22 lead.
The Tigers finished the half shooting just 36.4 percent from the field, with its big guns Lightening and Terrance Jacobs combining on four of 11 from the field and three of nine from the line. Michael Reese (10 points) and Kevin Green (nine points) led the Greyhounds, who shot 44 percent from the field.
TOWSON STATE (8-11) -- Lightening 6-16 4-9 17, Brown 2-5 0-0 4, James 2-6 0-0 4, Alexander 5-11 3-4 13, Jacobs 6-12 8-12 21, Griffin 0-0 0-2 0, Campbell 1-5 3-4 5, Valentine 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 23-59 18-31 66.
LOYOLA (7-12) -- Reese 5-11 5-8 15, Pendleton 7-9 1-4 15, Credle 0-1 0-0 0, Bergan 4-9 3-7 12, Green 7-13 5-10 19, Sereikas 0-1 1-4 1, Sparzak 0-0 0-0 0, Malone 0-0 0-1 0, K. Anderson 1-3 0-0 1. Totals 24-47 15-34 64.
Halftime--Loyola 31, Towson State 22. 3-point shots--Towson State 2-6 (Lightening 1-3, Jacobs 1-3), Loyola 1-7 (Reese 0-3, Bergan 1-2, Green 0-1, K. Anderson 0-1). Fouled out--Lightening, Campbell. Rebounds--Towson State 37 (James, Griffin, Campbell 6), Loyola 40 (Reese 9). Assists--Towson State 10 ( Jacobs 3), Loyola 16 (Bergan 6). Technical foul--Towson Coach Truax. Total fouls--Towson State 25, Loyola 24. Att--2,252.