James paces Towson past Lehigh, 77-69

December 08, 1993|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Staff Writer

Three nights after pulling off their second big upset of the season on the road, Towson's Tigers had all the makings for a significant home opener last night.

But only senior center John James seemed very interested in making it a gala affair.

James set career highs with 19 points and 11 rebounds and equaled his career best with six blocks, leading the sluggish Tigers to a 77-69 win over Lehigh before 1,295 at the Towson Center.

Towson (3-3) never trailed after the first basket, but was unable to put away the Engineers (1-4), who are coming off a 4-23 season and suffered their fourth loss in a row.

"James was really a spark, and we really needed it," said coach Terry Truax, whose Tigers knocked off Dayton Saturday after stunning St. John's in their season opener. "This was the type of game where we had to dictate the quality and tempo of the play, and we were just playing well enough to win.

"At times, we let Lehigh dictate, and as a result, they hung around and did the best they could with what they had. On our part, there was just a lack of effort and enthusiasm."

Part of the problem was an off-night by Scooter Alexander, the Tigers' leading scorer who was honored in a pre-game ceremony for becoming the school's 18th player to reach 1,000 points.

Alexander hit five of 18 from the field, and, to compound the misery, Towson's starting forwards, Matt Campbell and Stevie Thomas, went a combined 1-for-11.

"I tried to do something," James said. "We rely on Scooter quite a bit, and once in a while we have to pick him up. I just wanted to show what I could do."

The outcome was determined quickly, with the Tigers bounding ahead by as many as 15 points (31-16) in the first half.

But Lehigh tightened up on defense after the break and the game turned into a free-throw shooting marathon. The two teams attempted 59 second-half foul shots, making 46.

The margin wavered between seven and 14 points for the entire second half, with neither team making any headway.

Point guard Ralph Blalock followed James with 16 points, including four on two alley-oop dunks with the big men passing from out front. Blalock has 62 points in the past three games.

Truax improved his record to 11-0 in home openers, but he wasn't proud of this win.

"The idea that you can turn it on when you have to is just a cop-out," he said of his team. "We're not home that much early, the students were into it, but we have to learn to play the game with enthusiasm and effort.

"I would have hated to check out of coaching with this one."

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