Towson deals Michigan scare Tigers nearly force OT in home thriller, 75-72

November 25, 1997|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Towson University's basketball team got nearly everything it wanted out of last night's game with Michigan: a big-game atmosphere that included scalpers outside and a record crowd inside the Towson Center, and a measure of respect against a nationally known opponent.

The Tigers even had a legitimate chance to win -- or at least to force overtime.

The only thing Towson didn't get was the victory.

On a night when the Tigers set a school record for making three-point shots, it was a missed three that proved to be the only discernible difference. Marlin Wise's 25-footer with two seconds left fell a couple of feet short, allowing Michigan to escape with a 75-72 victory.

"We just ran out of bullets," said first-year Towson coach Mike Jaskulski.

Jaskulski blamed himself for Wise taking the shot. After Robbie Reid's two free throws had given Michigan (2-1) a three-point lead with 5.5 seconds left, Jaskulski had sent in a play that his team had barely practiced during a preseason dedicated to defense.

The play to set up sophomore guard Raul dePablo for a three-point attempt behind a double screen in the corner worked, except Wise never looked for dePablo in his attempt to get off a shot before the buzzer. DePablo had scored a career-high 18 points and had set a school record with six threes in seven attempts.

"In another two or three weeks, we'll be prepared for a situation like that," Jaskulski said. "We weren't prepared for that tonight."

But Towson (1-1) was prepared for everything else Michigan sent its way.

The Tigers shut down Robert "Tractor" Traylor, limiting the 6-foot-7, 300-pound senior center to seven shots, eight points and eight rebounds. They helped prolong Louis Bullock's shooting slump, harassing the junior guard from Temple Hills into a 4-for-12 night.

And except for a couple of short stretches, as well as the final possession, Towson executed crisply on offense by making 13 three-pointers in 25 attempts and challenging the bigger, more athletic Wolverines inside. It helped the Tigers build an early lead as well as some confidence, despite two early fouls on leading scorer Ralph Biggs.

"What they're not used to is playing against guys they don't know who are very good players," said interim Michigan coach Brian Ellerbe, who knew the Tigers from his three years losing to them at Loyola. "That's a tough sell."

The Tigers' intensity was fueled by the largest crowd in school history by seven people -- 5,086 -- and a setting similar to the one when Towson upset Louisville three years ago. The crowd reminded some of the Michigan players of a more famous bunch of crazies.

"It's like a game at Duke," Ward said. "People are yapping at you, throwing in their comments."

Down 52-44, Towson stormed back, going on a 19-10 run to take a 63-62 lead on a drive by Biggs over Ward and Traylor with 4: 44 to go.

The teams exchanged leads three times until Reid's three-point shot with 58 seconds left and two free throws by Bullock with 35 seconds to go appeared to put the game away.

But somehow, the Tigers and Wolverines helped to make things interesting. A three-point shot by Derick Newton cut Towson's deficit to three. In a strange sequence, the Wolverines were fouled twice. On the four shots, they missed one, made one and had two negated by lane violations.

It came down to Wise, the sophomore from Southern High.

He took the shot, but Jaskulski took the blame.

"I can't tell you how proud I am of our players," he said. "If the first two games are any indication, we're going to have a heck of a season."

Pub Date: 11/25/97

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