Towson wastes big leads but holds on to beat Hartford, 81-73 Thomas, Earl spark Tigers off bench

January 29, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Towson State played a Super Bowl matinee with visiting Hartford yesterday, but the Tigers' less-than-super effort in posting an 81-73 North Atlantic Conference victory left coach Terry Truax a bit perplexed.

The Tigers (11-6, 7-2), who had beaten the Hawks in Hartford eight days ago by 15 points, had numerous chances to put this one away early, but squandered several big leads.

They led the Hawks (3-15, 3-8) 75-66 with 1:55 remaining, but consecutive turnovers on inbounds passes by guard Michael Keyes and forward Ryan Lexer allowed Hartford to close to 75-70 on Dale Landrith's layup with 1:01 left.

The Hawks had a chance to draw closer, but point guard Michael Griffin blew a layup. Towson finally put it out of reach with a pair of free throws by both Stevie Thomas and Ralph Blalock, with a thunderous dunk by Blalock (17 points) providing an exclamation point.

"It's hard to explain," said Truax, "but getting a sustained effort from this team has been a real struggle.

"Personnel-wise, we're better than a lot of teams in this league and should be winning against the lesser teams in the conference by bigger margins. But when it should be crunch time, for some reason we play like we're protecting a two-point lead or we're a basket behind."

As things developed, Truax needed a big boost from his reserves. Thomas, a senior forward who usually starts, was benched for missing practice on Saturday. But Thomas and sophomore Derrick Earl, another wide-bodied forward, contributed 12 and 11 points respectively.

Earl made four of five shots and scrambled on the floor to pick up several loose balls.

Said Truax, "He showed good hands today, and the way he dove for the ball, he looked like he was attacking a pizza."

Junior guard Deron Robinson was another key contributor, with 10 points in 13 minutes.

Robinson, best remembered for leading Towson's upset of Louisville last season, has played sparingly this season.

"With Blalock and Scooter Alexander returning, we had a logjam at guard this year, and I considered red-shirting Deron," said Truax. "But he has a real explosive quality to his game. It's just a matter of keeping it under control."

Robinson was at his best in the second half. With Towson leading 61-52, the 6-foot-1 guard from Nashville, Tenn., made a slam on a breakaway and added a free throw. On the Tigers' next possession, his pass to Earl produced a layup for a 71-61 lead with four minutes left, enough of a cushion to survive the Hawks' last rally.

This game could have easily been decided in the first half when Hartford committed 15 turnovers and Towson jumped to a 19-8 lead. But junior Mike Richardson, a Carver grad, kept the Hawks in contention by scoring 15 of his game-high 20 points.

HARTFORD -- Richardson 8-13 0-0 20, Eames 1-3 1-1 3, Howse 4-15 5-5 13, Griffin 2-4 0-0 4, Bailey 4-8 7-8 15, Tabb 2-5 0-0 4, Hannah 1-1 0-0 2, Landrith 4-4 3-4 11. Totals 26-53 16-18 73.

TOWSON ST. -- Blalock 7-11 3-4 17, Lexer 2-2 1-1 5, Dellinger 2-3 1-1 5, Alexander 9-13 0-0 18, Keyes 1-5 0-0 3, Biggs 0-3 0-0 0, Robinson 2-6 6-7 10, Moody 0-1 0-0 0, Thomas 4-8 4-4 12, Earl 4-5 3-3 11. Totals 31-57 18-20 81.

Halftime--Towson St. 39-33. 3-point goals--Hartford 5-10 (Richardson, 4-6, Tabb 1-3, Bailey 0-1). Towson St. 1-7 (Keyes 1-4, Thomas 0-2, Robinson 0-1). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--Hartford 25 (Howse 8), Towson St. 29 (Dellinger 7). Total fouls--Hartford 14, Towson St. 17. A--909.

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