Liberty stops Boyd, not Towson, 75-69

February 16, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

Liberty achieved its goal, but lost its game with Towson State last night.

The Flames, burned by Devin Boyd for 37 points last Thursday, calmed down Towson State's all-time scoring leader with gimmick defenses, but the strategy wasn't enough to secure a victory -- and a spot in the Big South Conference regular-season title chase.

Boyd was held to eight shots and scored only 13 points, but the Tigers officially eliminated the preseason favorite from championship contention with a 75-69 win before 1,817 at the Towson Center.

Towson (15-8, 11-2) has only second-place Campbell (9-3 Big South) to fend off in the fight for the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next month.

Sophomore Scooter Alexander did not play in the first five minutes as coach Terry Truax honored all four of his seniors -- Boyd, Larry Brown, William Griffin and Craig Valentine -- with starts in their final home appearance.

But Alexander quickly compensated for his absence and finished with a game-high 23 points, leading a 10-point Towson run that gave the Tigers a 54-47 lead midway in the second half.

Brown also had a steady game with 13 points and 10 rebounds and Matt Campbell pitched in 11 points as the Tigers proved they could score with Boyd held in check.

"They were really pressing up on Devin and tried to shut him down," said Alexander. "They played a box-and-one and a lot of junk defense. He had 26 in the first half down there and it's hard to ignore that."

"They put a clamp on me," said Boyd. "So this game was nothing like the first one [an 86-81 Towson win in Lynchburg, Va.]. Down there, we just ran and pushed the ball. It was wide open."

The outgrowth was a much more patterned game. When the Tigers managed to get their running game unwound, they spurted.

Usually, that meant Alexander driving or pulling up on the break for a jumper. But those moments were occasional in a game of structure, not frenzy.

"The combo defenses did a lot," Truax said of the targets for Boyd. "But I don't think over the long haul you can win with junk defenses. And I think Devin allowed it to frustrate him too much. We have to be prepared for that."

Truax was happy when Campbell and Brown proved productive in the second half with Boyd under wraps and Alexander needing some help.

"We didn't play well in the first half," said the coach, mindful of 37.9 percent shooting and a general sluggish appearance. "But when we were tied, it was like starting over. We were fortunate."

Five games in nine days, including trips to Lehigh and Liberty, may have contributed to the lethargy.

"All those games in a short period take their toll," said Alexander. "You might be into a game mentally, but your legs won't do what they do normally."

Still, Liberty's election to avoid another run-and-gun game certainly didn't hurt the Tigers.

"They weren't really attacking us like they did last time," said Alexander. "They wanted to get in front and take the crowd out of it."

The Flames (14-11, 8-6), who have lost four straight, were never behind in the first half after two free throws by Campbell marked the game's first points.

But Towson took the lead for good on a drive by Campbell midway through the second half and went on to its sixth consecutive triumph and 10th in 12 home games this season. The Tigers did not lose a Big South game at the Towson Center.

With a magic number of two (Towson wins, Campbell losses), they now head for North Carolina-Asheville, Radford and UMBC.

LIBERTY -- Ferguson 4-5 2-4 10, Hickman 5-17 2-2 13, Nwosu 6-6 4-8 16, Toomer 0-2 0-0 0, Hildebrand 6-13 2-2 15, Bloom 0-3 0-0 0, Hunter 1-1 2-3 4, Taylor 2-2 0-0 6, Pothoven 0-1 0-0 0, Chapman 1-4 0-0 3, Williams 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-56 12-19 69.

TOWSON STATE -- Campbell 3-8 5-6 11, Brown 4-9 5-8 13, Griffin 0-1 0-0 0, Boyd 3-8 5-9 13, Valentine 2-4 0-0 4, Alexander 9-17 5-6 23, Caldwell 1-1 0-1 2, James 3-7 3-6 9. Totals 25-55 23-36 75.

Halftime--Liberty 30, Towson 30. 3-point goals--Liberty 5-15 (Taylor 2-2, Chapman 1-3, Hickman 1-2, Hildebrand 1-5, Toomer 0-2), Towson St. 2-7 (Boyd 2-5, Campbell 0-2). Rebounds--Liberty 34 (Hickman, 10), Towson 40 (Brown, James 10). Assists--Liberty 16 (Hildebrand 7), Towson 14 (Boyd, Alexander 4). Total fouls--Liberty 27, Towson 17. Fouled out--Nwosu, Hildebrand, Chapman. A--1,817.

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