Towson State puts away Maine to claim 2nd place 65-56 victory breaks tie in NAC standings

February 12, 1996|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

It was a battle for sole possession of second place in the North Atlantic Conference. It seemed to be a strong incentive for Towson State and Maine, both of which have four league games remaining.

But it wasn't. Instead, it was ugly.

In the last 8 1/2 minutes, Towson State missed seven of 21 free throws and six of nine shots from the field, but held on to beat Maine, 65-56, yesterday afternoon before 888 at the Towson Center. The Tigers (14-8, 10-4), who are three games behind conference-leading Drexel, avenged a 13-point loss at Maine on Jan. 6.

"I was concerned of the kids thinking we would beat this team when we got them at home," Towson State coach Terry Truax said. "They thought that being at home, it would take care of itself. I don't know if they anticipated as tough of a game as it was. I didn't prepare them enough to anticipate that."

Although Towson State took the lead for good at 45-43 with 8:27 to play on two free throws by Ralph Biggs, neither team built a lead larger than five points until the final 3:41 of the game.

The Tigers pulled away at the end on Maine's inability to score. The Black Bears (12-9, 9-5) didn't score for the final 2:09 and hit just two of their last seven field-goal attempts.

"I thought we played lethargic, and that's the pace [Towson State] liked," Maine coach Rudy Keeling said. "Any time you score 24 points in the second half, you're not going to win the game. I didn't think we ever got in a rhythm."

Neither team established any offensive flow. Ralph Blalock led Towson State with 16 points and 10 rebounds but only hit one field goal in the second half.

Down the stretch, it was Biggs who stepped up his play. He converted a three-point play off a putback with 3:41 left to increase the Tigers' lead to 57-51.

Biggs, who had a team-high three assists and tied his season best with 10 points, then hit a cutting Blalock under the basket to give Towson a 60-54 advantage with just over two minutes remaining. On the next Towson State possession, Biggs tracked down an offensive rebound that allowed the Tigers to run the clock under a minute left with a 60-56 lead.

"That's what I do for this team -- I scrap and get loose balls," said Biggs, a 6-foot-6, 169-pound sophomore forward. "The starters are usually out there for a while, so I can come in there at the end of the game with more energy. I provide enthusiasm, and my teammates feed off of that."

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