Towson unravels Delaware, 85-78 Guards help Tigers win in third shot at Blue Hens

March 03, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

NEWARK, Del. -- His team had just beaten Towson State for the second time in four days, but Delaware coach Mike Brey stood outside the locker room last week and voiced his concerns about a third straight meeting in the opening round of the North Atlantic Conference tournament.

The Tigers' backcourt worried him, he said. So did their size up front. He even conceded that they had more talent.

Seeded fifth and playing on Delaware's home floor, Towson State went out yesterday and proved Brey right.

Guards Michael Keyes and Scooter Alexander combined for 30 points and 11 assists, and the Tigers grabbed seven more rebounds than the Blue Hens. They also got a huge effort off the bench from seldom-used forward Florian Schneider, and the opportunity to face No. 1 seed Drexel in today's semifinal round after defeating No. 4 Delaware, 85-78, at the Bob Carpenter Center.

Keyes, a junior from Pittsburgh, turned in one of his finest performances this season with 17 points, four rebounds, six assists and two steals. Center Stevie Thomas had 17 points and five rebounds, and Alexander had 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Senior forward Ralph Blalock added 15 points and four steals, but the Tigers (16-11) might not have advanced without Schneider, an unheralded junior from Schlierbach, France, who was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc for nine points.

Delaware (15-12) had taken its biggest lead, 61-55, with 11:28 left when Schneider made his first three-pointer. The next one, less than a minute later, moved Towson State in front, 63-61, and the Tigers never trailed after that.

"He was like an angel out of the sky for them," said Delaware guard Rob Garner (14 points).

Schneider played 10 minutes yesterday, double his average. He missed his first attempt and expected to be yanked. "I saw Ralph Biggs at the [scorers'] table and thought I better make the next one," he said.

"That's almost true," said coach Terry Truax.

Truax went with a smaller, quicker lineup that included putting the 6-foot-1 Keyes on Delaware's 6-9 Peca Arsic, who prefers to shoot from the perimeter. Arsic didn't score in the first seven minutes, and Towson State bolted to an 18-6 lead, getting most of its points inside and on transition.

Delaware took its first lead, 22-20, with 8:40 left, and was ahead by two at halftime. The Blue Hens were 7-for-10 from beyond the arc, including three each from Arsic (21 points, nine assists) and freshman Tyrone Perry.

The second half was a different story. The Blue Hens were just 2-for-8 from three-point range, and Arsic and junior forward Greg Smith each had four fouls with more than 10 minutes remaining. The timing especially was poor for Smith, who scored 13 of his 15 points after halftime.

"They deserve a lot of credit for the way they came back to practice this week and were focused, and played with pretty good intensity for 40 minutes," said Truax, whose team grabbed 15 offensive rebounds.

"I think they played harder this time," Brey said. "Maybe because of the tournament, they turned it up a notch. We ran into a heck of a Towson State team today. They were very hard to guard today. We've taken a lot of pride in your defense this year, but for us to give up 85 points, that puts a lot of pressure on us."

NAC tournament

At Newark, Del.

First round: Friday

Hartford 76, New Hampshire 73

Northeastern 71, Hofstra 61

Quarterfinals: Yesterday

Towson State 85, Delaware 78

Drexel 83, Hartford 71

Boston U. 69, Northeastern 54

Maine 84, Vermont 75

Semifinals: Today

Towson State vs. Drexel, 1 p.m.

Boston U. vs. Maine, 3:30 p.m.

Championship: Thursday

Semifinal winners at higher seed, 5 p.m.

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