Biggs, Towson claw back to down American, 51-48 Senior's 25 pace comeback in Jaskulski's Tigers debut

November 23, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Mike Jaskulski will never likely forget the first half of his first game as coach at Towson University. It included a measly 14 points for the Tigers, 14 missed shots in 20 attempts and a 14-point deficit to American after Nate Smith's turnaround 50-foot bank shot at the halftime buzzer.

"You're standing there, watching and saying to yourself, 'What more can go wrong?' " said Jaskulski, who went out to question referee Vinny Allen about whether Smith's foot had touched the sidecourt line before he let fly. "The last time Marlin Wise double-dribbled was probably in the fourth grade."

Fortunately for Jaskulski, the Tigers didn't answer that question. They did answer the Eagles. Using its depth to wear down undermanned American, and 23 second-half points from senior forward Ralph Biggs, Towson stormed back to win its season opener, 51-48, for its new coach.

"I can't say enough about our team, and our mental toughness," said Jaskulski, whose Tigers don't have any turnaround time before getting ready for tomorrow night's game against Michigan at the Towson Center. "It would have been easy enough for us to fold. Obviously we didn't."

Biggs didn't let them. After taking (and making) only one shot in the first half, Biggs hit seven of eight in the second half, including all three of his threes, and scored the final seven points for the Tigers.

A three-pointer with 1: 59 left pulled Towson to within 48-47. After American (0-2) committed its third straight turnover, Biggs hit another three with 1: 19 remaining. He also pulled down a crucial rebound and made one of two free throws with nine seconds to go.

"We were a little impatient on offense early in the game," said Biggs, who finished with 25 points to tie Smith for game-high scoring honors. "It's two halves every game and my teammates kept telling me it'll work out in the end."

L While it worked out for Biggs, it didn't work out for Smith.

The senior guard scored 17 points in the first half and, after Biggs opened the second half with a basket, extended his team's lead to 31-16 on his fifth three-pointer of the game. But he also missed his last four shots, including two crucial threes in the final minute.

Jaskulski kept clearing his bench to get fresh bodies on the Eagles in general and Smith in particular. The Tigers closed within 35-33 with a little over 10 minutes left. But American seemed to get its second wind as Smith hit a three and made a layup off a block of a Wise drive by Matt Brown.

Towson eventually wore down the Eagles, who were playing without two injured starters, and Biggs took over where Smith left off. Biggs scored 12 points over the last 7: 04, while Smith went scoreless in the final nine minutes.

"Because my shots didn't go in doesn't mean that I was tired," said Smith, whose final attempt came as he double-clutched a 22-footer with about five seconds to go. "But as a team we ran out of gas."

Said Wise, a sophomore guard from Baltimore's Southern High School, "He's one of the best shooters we've faced. But he stopped taking a lot of shots."

Asked about his mass substitution patterns in which eight players logged 15 minutes or more, Jaskulski said: "I don't know if its my inability to decide who should and shouldn't be out there or that we have nine, 10 or 11 guys who contribute. It's one thing to come back. It's another to come back after you've made a run and the other team starts to pull away. But they have answered every question so far."

Pub Date: 11/23/97

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