Towson's season again too short for Alexander

March 07, 1994|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Scooter Alexander has earned postseason honors in each of the past three basketball seasons. But the way Alexander sees it, he is 0-for-3 as a college player.

When Towson State failed in a heroic comeback bid against Liberty and lost, 63-58, in the Big South tournament semifinals Saturday, the Tigers became the tournament's top-seeded victim for the second straight season.

And for the third consecutive year, Alexander, the Tigers' star junior shooting guard, was left to contemplate an unfulfilled dream -- playing in the NCAA tournament. The winner of tonight's Big South championship game between Liberty and Campbell will receive an automatic bid to the national tournament.

"My goal this year was to win the [Big South] tournament. My whole focus this year was to win the tournament and go to the NCAAs. Nothing else," said Alexander, who was visibly shaken after Towson State's loss. "I'm happy that we won the league [regular-season] and won all those games [21]. But it's all for nothing."

Alexander's career at Towson State has been marked by checkered postseasons -- individual rewards, team failures, bad timing.

zTC In 1992, when he was a freshman just removed from a terrific run at Dunbar High School, Alexander was the East Coast Conference Rookie of the Year, then helped lead the Tigers to the conference tournament championship, earning tournament MVP honors. Problem was, the ECC had lost its automatic qualifier. The Tigers' season ended without a trip to the national tournament.

Last year, Alexander stepped up a notch. He helped carry the Tigers to the regular-season title in their first season as a member of the Big South. Alexander made the all-conference first team after averaging 19.3 points and shooting 50.2 percent from the field. But, with an NCAA tournament trip within their grasp, the Tigers lost to Winthrop in the first round of the Big South tournament and went home early.

This past weekend was deja vu for Alexander. On Friday, he was rewarded again with All-Big South first-team honors after leading the Tigers with a 17.6 scoring average. The following night, the Tigers faced a Liberty team they had beaten twice during the regular season. The Tigers lost, and once again, Alexander will be stuck with watching the opening round of the NCAA tournament instead of playing in it.

Still, the Tigers wouldn't have gotten this close without Alexander, who was the heart of the team from wire-to-wire this year. Thirteen times, he led the Tigers (21-9) in scoring, averaging 33.5 minutes, 4.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and playing solid defense on a nightly basis. He scored in double figures in 28 of 29 games, mostly by hitting the medium-range jumper with consistency.

"He [Alexander] is the kind of kid, who, if you're not careful, you take him for granted," Towson State coach Terry Truax said. "You watch him make those shots over and over and you just expect him to do it.

"The thing about Scooter is, he always knows what we're doing. Sometimes, he doesn't give that impression because he's not a gregarious kid," Truax said.

"He's quiet, but he's very bright and attentive. He picked up our system faster than any freshman I've ever coached. And we've got two or three key players who don't always understand what's going on. He could run any position. He's like a quarterback."

As well-rounded as Alexander's game is, he intends to improve in two key areas during the off-season. He plans to increase his strength by lifting weights, which he typically has ignored, choosing instead to play in assorted Baltimore and Washington summer leagues. And he has vowed to become a three-point shooting threat.

He attempted only 24 three-pointers all season, and converted four. Saturday night, his three-point miss -- which barely rimmed out -- would have given the Tigers a 59-58 lead in the final two minutes. That shot was the best of five wasted opportunities the Tigers had to tie or go ahead of Liberty down the stretch.

"I thought it [the shot] was going down. It felt good when it left my hand," Alexander said. "I'm definitely going to work on that shot. This [the loss] will probably linger for about a week, before I get back to playing again."

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