Towson toughs it out

Guards keep Bears close, but inside play boosts Tigers in 2nd half

Towson 71, Morgan State 66

College basketball


Morgan State guards Timothy Mathis and Joseph McLean were nearly unstoppable with their outside shooting last night at Towson. But the host Tigers, behind forwards Lawrence Hamm and Dennard Abraham, kept doing the dirty work that allowed them to clinch a hard-fought, 71-66 victory before 1,372 at Towson Center.

For Towson, which is off to its second 2-1 start under second-year coach Pat Kennedy, the victory was all about pounding the ball inside in the second half, making free throws and dominating the boards. The smaller, quicker Bears (0-6) made their living on the perimeter, where Mathis and McLean spent much of the evening puncturing Towson's zone defense.

The Tigers did not breathe easily until Mathis -- the 5-foot-9 sophomore who had career highs of 22 points, six assists and six steals -- missed a 25-footer with four seconds remaining and Towson clinging to a 69-66 lead.

Morgan State, which led at the half for the first time this season, was quite the thorn in Towson's side. With McLean helping by scoring a season-high 19 points, the Bears tried to keep the game an open-floor, helter-skelter affair.

Ultimately, Towson countered with patience and poise. Hamm, the 6-6 senior, posted his ninth career double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds, including 10 points in the second half. Abraham, the 6-9 junior, scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the second half.

"In the second half, we did get control of the game. We kind of dictated the shots we wanted [inside], and we finished them," Kennedy said. "We have to learn how to win. I thought we did an excellent job of getting the ball inside to our two big guys."

The Tigers were outstanding in the other, blue-collar areas of the game. With Hamm and Abraham leading the way, Towson out-rebounded the Bears by a whopping 39-19 margin.

The Tigers also powered their way to the basket enough to collect 23 free-throw attempts and make 18. Freshman guard Tim Crossin went 9-for-9 at the line and finished with 12 points, six assists and four steals.

Towson led for the final 7:39, but it was never easy, as Morgan used its quickness on defense to force 19 turnovers and kept Towson in its sights by making nine three-pointers, including a combined seven by Mathis and McLean.

The Tigers appeared to have the game in hand when they took a 66-59 lead with 3:02 left on a transition layup by forward Marc Pratt. But Morgan cut it to 69-66 on a three by freshman guard James Reed with 51 seconds left.

"We kept relying on jump shots, and we didn't rebound at all," Morgan State coach Butch Beard said. "I was proud of our effort. I wasn't proud of our execution."

MORGAN STATE--Lee 2-6 2-4 6, Berkley 4-6 1-1 9, Mathis 8-15 2-2 22, Gomes 0-6 0-0 0, McLean 8-13 0-0 19, Jenkins 1-1 0-0 2, Warfield 0-0 0-0 0, Reed 2-4 0-0 6, McIver 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-53 5-7 66. TOWSON--Pratt 3-4 0-0 7, Hamm 6-12 2-3 14, Abraham 7-14 1-2 16, Crossin 1-6 9-9 12, Coleman 3-5 3-4 9, Jackson 1-2 1-2 3, Tubbs 3-5 2-2 8, Raboin 1-4 0-1 2. Totals 25-52 18-23 71. Halftime--Morgan State, 39-34. 3-point goals--Morgan State 9-21 (Mathis 4-8, McLean 3-4, Reed 2-4, Gomes 0-5), Towson 3-11 (Pratt 1-1, Abraham 1-2, Crossin 1-4, Jackson 0-1, Raboin 0-1, Hamm 0-2). Rebounds--Morgan State 19 (Lee 7), Towson 39 (Hamm 11). Assists--Morgan State 18 (Mathis, McLean 6), Towson 14 (Crossin 6). Total fouls--Morgan State 16, Towson 15. A--1,372.

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