Freshman Keyes lifts Towson, 87-72

February 20, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

With his parents and former high school coach watching him perform for the first time at Towson Center, reserve freshman Michael Keyes scored a career-high 22 points to lead Towson State to an 87-72 victory over Campbell University yesterday, giving the Tigers sole possession of first place in the Big South Conference.

Keyes, a guard from Woodland Hills High School in Pittsburgh, made nine of 12 field-goal attempts in 24 minutes. But his biggest basket came after Campbell trimmed a 72-62 deficit to 76-70 with a little less than two minutes remaining.

The Camels (16-7, 11-4) applied backcourt pressure on the Tigers (17-8, 12-3), but junior guard Scooter Alexander of Dunbar broke the press and threw a perfect lead pass to a releasing Keyes for a breakaway layup.

"That's something we spend a lot of time practicing," said Keyes, who has been pushing sophomore Quintin Moody for the starting backcourt job. "I take a straight path to the basket, and the man with the ball looks for me."

Towson State coach Terry Truax said: "I told Michael when I recruited him that he'd get a lot of playing time."

Keyes' layup killed Campbell's comeback. The Tigers outscored the visitors 11-2 in the final two minutes to record their 12th win in the past 14 games and stretch their home winning streak to 18.

With only three games remaining before the conference tournament opens in Charleston, S.C., on March 4, Towson State got a balanced offensive effort with Alexander (17 points, nine assists), Ralph Blalock (15 points), reserve forward Stevie Thomas (10 points) and John James (10 points) joining Keyes in double figures.

James, who was charged with two fouls in the opening minutes, scored all 10 of his points in the second half and made several clever assists.

"My head wasn't really into the game in the first half," said James, the Tigers' lanky center and co-captain. "I got frustrated by the early fouls and really took myself out of the game. But then I realized that we were fighting for first place. I got real focused in the second half, and when they played off me, I was able to hit some shots."

But it was Towson State's aggressive defense more than its offense (53 percent shooting) that ended Campbell's four-game winning streak and cost the Camels a share of the conference lead.

Senior forward Joe Spinks, an All-South first-team choice the past three years, had used his quickness and the Camels' effective back screens to score a game-high 24 points on slashing drives and post-up moves.

"They're very good at forcing switches with their back screens, and getting a smaller man guarding Spinks," Truax said. "He was also too quick for [senior forward] Matt Campbell."

So Truax ordered his guards to put more pressure on the ball and assigned Thomas, a bulky 6-foot-7 sophomore from Walbrook, to shadow Spinks.

The strategy worked. After Spinks' layup cut the Tigers' lead to 50-47 with 16 minutes left, he did not score again until converting a three-pointer with 3:28 remaining to cut the lead to 72-66.

But Campbell would get no closer, as Blalock contributed six points in the closing minutes to put the Camels away.

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