Towson State's defense clamps UNC-Asheville

January 30, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Staff Writer

Towson State reached milestones yesterday, although the Tigers went through some forgettable minutes while getting there.

For defense purists, yesterday's 54-45 victory over visiting UNC-Asheville at Towson Center was a pleasure to watch. The Tigers forced 23 turnovers, limited the Bulldogs (2-14, 0-8) to 38.8 percent shooting and held an opponent to its lowest output since Towson State went to Division I in 1979.

For the record books, the victory marked the first time coach Terry Truax, since he was 1-1 in his rookie season in 1983 at Towson State, has a .500 record (155-155).

And the victory also marked the Tigers' 14th consecutive win at home, a school record.

The Tigers' offense, however, did not give the 812 in attendance much to cheer about. Towson State converted only two baskets in the first five minutes, then went through a nine-minute stretch in the second half in which they scored only eight points. Still, against the outclassed Bulldogs, the Tigers (11-7, 6-2) controlled the game for the final 26 minutes, despite producing their lowest point total of the season.

"We struggle at times in a lot of games, no matter who we play," said junior center John James, who had seven points, a game-high 10 rebounds, four steals and three blocks. "It's going to cost us in the long run. We're trying to get to first place [in the Big South], and we've got to smooth things out."

The victory, the Tigers' sixth in their past seven games, kept Towson State a half-game behind league-leading Campbell in the Big South.

Truax, who was 25-60 after three seasons, said of his .500 record: "It took 11 years to do that. Can you believe it? I'm not sure I want to read that it took me 308 games to get back to .500. I don't think I'll be celebrating tonight. I don't think of it as my record. I think it speaks highly of the student-athletes we've had here at Towson State."

The Tigers had trouble getting untracked. Seven minutes into the game, both offenses were bogged down in a 9-9 deadlock. Six minutes later at the 7:15 mark, Josh Kohn's (15 points) steal and layup pulled UNC-Asheville into a 15-15 tie.

Then, the Tigers began to assert themselves. Their defense forced four turnovers, and four players scored at the other end, as Ralph Blalock's (11 points, six assists) three-pointer made it 24-15. In the half's final minute, freshman guard DeRon Robinson hit two three-pointers -- the last coming at the buzzer -- to complete a 17-4 run that gave the Tigers a 32-19 lead at halftime.

Just when it appeared Towson State's offense had broken out for good, the Tigers went into a shell. They made nine of 27 shots (33.3 percent) in the second half, while the Bulldogs pulled to 43-35 at the 6:12 mark on a layup by Eric Evans.

"Part of the problem was we got only about three baskets off of our defense. And they [the Bulldogs] are so patient and deliberate. Plus, we didn't hit some open shots against their zone," Truax said. "We get tentative sometimes when we've got a lead. We've got to get better at that."

A layup by Scooter Alexander (team-high 14 points) and a slam by Blalock opened the lead to 49-37. UNC-Asheville's last gasp was a three-pointer by Kohn that cut the lead to 49-41 with 1:40 left, but Towson State beat the Bulldogs' pressure with a backdoor layup by Matt Campbell with 1:05 left to make it 51-41.

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