Towson's big effort falls short in Virginia

Tigers give top seed VCU all it can handle before bowing in tourney, 67-60

College Basketball

March 07, 2004|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. - The odds were stacked heavily against Towson yesterday in the Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball tournament.

The Tigers were coming back just 16 hours after a hard-earned victory in the play-in game to challenge the tournament's No. 1 seed and most athletic team.

Virginia Commonwealth was entering the game refreshed after a week off and was playing only a mile from its arena in its hometown.

But Towson was unfazed by the odds, contending into the final minute before Rams freshman B.A. Walker made a 26-foot shot to end the upset hopes of the Tigers in a 67-60 decision at the Richmond Coliseum.

In six previous CAA meetings with the quick and talented Rams, Towson (8-21) had never come closer than a 13-point loss, so its showing yesterday was, at worst, a moral victory.

"They had a great fighting spirit and were extremely hungry," VCU forward Nick George (14 points, nine rebounds) said of the Tigers. "They did a great job of coming at us."

Towson was on the verge of being blown away several times, twice falling behind by 13 in the second half before rallying determinedly. With 1:10 remaining, the Tigers' only senior, Jamaal Gilchrist, hit his lone three-pointer during a tough, 3-for-14 shooting night, keeping the Tigers within 62-58.

But the Rams answered by working the ball around and using the clock until Walker dropped the big one that put it away.

"I saw their guards were spread out," Walker said. "I had the middle, so I let it go."

Towson coach Michael Hunt declined to use weariness as an excuse, nor would Gilchrist blame the exhaustive, 40-minute stint he turned in while scoring a career-high 32 points Friday night.

"I understand that the No. 1 seed has earned the right to play early," Hunt said. "That puts value on the regular season. It's our job to win more, so that next year we're not a No. 9 seed. It's very hard to win any tournament playing four games in a row, so we have to insure that we only have to play three."

Freshman Mike Green continued his surge for Towson with five three-pointers and a game-high 18 points, while Gilchrist was limited to 11.

"I didn't feel like I ran out of gas," Gilchrist said. "That was just a good team we played."

CAA Player of the Year Domonic Jones was another who experienced rough going, scoring just nine points with four turnovers as VCU won its sixth straight. Burly center Troy Godwin led the Rams with 15 points.

The top seed has played for the CAA championship in 10 of the past 11 seasons, so history wasn't on Towson's side, either. But in defeat, the Tigers may have turned the corner in the league.

"I think we accomplished something by our showing in this tournament," Hunt said. "I'm very proud of our team's effort."

Said Rams coach Jeff Capel: "We played against a team that was very determined. They believed and they played hard. We were a little rusty, but they did that to us."

TOWSON-Hamm 4-6 0-0 8, Pease 1-5 4-4 6, Dixon 1-3 0-0 2, Green 6-13 1-3 18, Gilchrist 3-14 4-5 11, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Petkunas 2-3 0-0 4, Tubbs 0-1 0-0 0, Goode 4-10, Plack 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 21-55 12-19 60. VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH-George 5-10 3-3 14, Godwin 6-10 3-7 15, Jones 3-10 2-3 9, Walker 4-7 0-0 12, Pellot-Rosa 3-6 1-2 7, Doles 4-10 0-1 9, Capel 0-0 0-0 0, Harper 0-1 1-2 1, Johnson 0-1 0-0 0, Reid 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-56 10-18 67. Half-VCU, 35-31. 3-point goals-Towson 6-17 (Green 5-9, Gilchrist 1-6, Pease 0-1, Petkunas 0-1), VCU 7-19 (Walker 4-6, George 1-2, Doles 1-3, Jones 1-3). Rebounds-Towson 35 (Pease 8), VCU 39 (Doles, George 9). Assists-Towson 11 (Gilchrist 4), VCU 13 (Jones 5). Fouls-Towson 15, VCU 16. Technicals-Towson team. A-N/A.

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