Towson no longer rules home court

January 08, 1995|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,Sun Staff Writer

Towson State's 22-game home winning streak came to an excruciating end against Radford yesterday, and Tigers coach Terry Truax could see it coming before the opening tip-off.

"We haven't had more than 10 minutes of good practice since the Howard game [Tuesday]," said Truax, after watching DeRon Robinson miss a possible game-tying, three-point shot in the closing seconds of Towson's 71-68 loss.

"It's not so much the loss, it's the fact that we didn't play well. Our attention to detail wasn't there," Truax added. "Our overall approach to this game was poor. If our kids don't approach practice better, this won't be where it [losing] ends. This has got to be a learning experience."

The Tigers (5-4, 0-1) dropped their Big South Conference opener -- their first misstep at the Towson Center since losing to Delaware 728 days ago -- by running into a Radford team fresh off an 18-point loss at home to UNC-Greensboro, which is favored to win the Big South this season.

It was a ragged affair yesterday, with the teams combining for 47 turnovers and just 18-for-50 shooting in the second half.

Radford (7-4, 1-1) led for the game's final 29 minutes, and won with impressive balance. Guards Anthony Walker (22 points) and Jason Lansdown (15 points, eight rebounds, four assists) sparked a perimeter attack that helped the Highlanders take a 47-40 halftime lead. Center Antoine Dalton (14 points, eight rebounds) and forward Chris Harvey (11 points, eight rebounds) later carried Radford inside, where the Highlanders answered several Towson State rallies in the second half.

The Tigers committed 22 turnovers, including several in the closing minutes that magnified their frustration. Their top two offensive threats, guard Ralph Blalock and forward Stevie Thomas, combined for only 14 points, less than half of their average total. Guard Quinton Moody, who is battling the flu, went scoreless in seven minutes. Guard Michael Keyes, nursing a sprained ankle, managed only two points in 29 minutes.

And despite all of their shortcomings, the Tigers still had a chance to push the contest into overtime in their final possession. That's because Towson State got career-high scoring performances from senior center Jason Crump (16 points) and freshman guard Florian Schneider (13 points), and held Radford scoreless for the final four minutes, 12 seconds. The Highlanders scored only six points in the last 10:43.

Trouble was, Towson State kept nullifying its tenacious defense with a mistake or missed shot at the other end. The most frustrating sequence came just after Robinson had converted two free throws to cut Radford's lead to 69-67 with 5:46 left.

Following a Radford miss, the Tigers came down the floor with a chance to tie the game. But Robinson attempted a pass to Keyes, just as Keyes cut toward the basket, resulting in a throwaway. Immediately, the Tigers forced a Radford turnover, but Keyes missed a wide-open 15-footer. Radford's Shane Weddle then drove the baseline for a layup to make it 71-67 with 4:12 to play, and that was it for the Highlanders' offense.

"We couldn't get anything to go down, but the kids hung tough defensively," Radford coach Ron Bradley said.

After falling behind 71-67 Towson State turned the ball over on two of its next three possessions, although the Tigers trimmed the lead by a point when Blalock made one of two free throws with 47 seconds left. Then, after Lansdown missed a short bank shot, the Tigers rebounded, worked the ball past midcourt and called a timeout with 11 seconds to play.

Truax designed a play to get the ball to Blalock, who has won VTC three games this season on buzzer-beating, three-pointers. But Blalock never got to touch the ball.

"They don't lack confidence, and they don't panic when they get behind," said Truax of the Tigers, who feature only one senior in Crump. "Even though I think there is talent here, the reality is we're three possessions from being 2-7. We've had some success, but we haven't really done the things necessary to earn it."

The Tigers earned their seven-point halftime deficit by leaving Radford's shooter open in the early going. Walker's first three-pointer gave the Highlanders a 14-8 lead five minutes into the game. Two more threes by Walker paced a 14-4 run late in the half, and Radford led, 43-30, with two minutes left. Crump's unlikely three-pointer at the buzzer trimmed the lead to 47-40.

The Tigers then responded with a 6-0 spurt to start the second half, with four points coming from Crump. But Radford, after calling a timeout, started working the ball inside to Dalton. He converted two straight three-point plays to erase the Tigers' opening run and extend the Highlanders' lead to 53-46 with 17:34 left.

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