Towson keeps Vermont down in 91-83 win Improve to 6-2 in league despite 28 from Benton

January 27, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The scoreboard at the Towson Center went out briefly with a little more than 13 minutes left in the first half of last night's game. That was one of the few times it didn't pain Vermont coach Tom Brennan to look at it.

When it was working, the numbers favored Towson State, and nothing the Catamounts' Eddie Benton did would change that.

The Tigers went ahead in the first minute and stayed there, withstanding the usual flurry of points from Benton in a 91-83 victory over Vermont.

Benton, the leading active scorer in Division I (2,238 points), despite being 5 feet 11, had everyone but the Towson mascot guarding him and still hung 28 points on the Tigers.

His erratic shooting probably didn't impress a scout from the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics who was there to watch him -- he was 8-for-23 from the field -- but his quickness created enough opportunities that he exceeded his 24.8 average. And his passing led to six assists.

Towson coach Terry Truax used five different players on Benton in the first half alone, beginning with forward Ralph Blalock. Scooter Alexander, Michael Keyes, Ralph Biggs and Quinton Moody also took a crack at him, and the Tigers trapped at every opportunity.

"One time, I thought we had four guys at once on him," Truax said. "I don't understand that strategy. That's good if you've got nine guys."

Truax received plenty of offense from Alexander (22 points) and Blalock (18). Senior forward Stevie Thomas added 15 points for the Tigers, who improved to 10-6 overall and 6-2 in the North Atlantic Conference. Keyes had 12 points, and sophomore Ryan Lexer chipped in 10.

Alexander was the opposite of Benton, making 11 of 14 shots. His team shot 55 percent. "We definitely had to come out today and re-establish our territory," he said.

The senior guard was referring to Towson State's last game, an embarrassing 20-point loss at home to Hofstra.

"Our team has demonstrated in the past that, not only do we lose, we don't play well," Truax said. "Then, they regroup at practice and do the things that are needed for the next game."

Towson led by five at halftime and never let Vermont (6-11, 5-5) get any closer. Alexander scored two quick baskets to begin the second period, setting the tone for the last 20 minutes.

Benton wasn't the entire show for Vermont, just the most closely watched. Center Erik Nelson scored a career-high 21 points.

When these teams last met, on Jan. 18, Blalock drove the lane and scored off the glass with one second remaining to give Towson a 69-67 victory. The rematch figured to be just as intense, but the Tigers weren't looking for drama.

They were looking to bury the Catamounts early.

Towson ran off 14 straight points after an opening basket by Vermont's Matt Chotkowski. The lead grew to 13 before Vermont's shooting improved over the last eight minutes.

Benton began finding the mark, mostly with Moody guarding him, and the Catamounts got within four with three minutes left.

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