The conditions didn't exactly appear favorable for Towson to score a major breakthrough last night.
With leading scorer Gary Neal sidelined by an injured foot for the second straight game and Virginia Commonwealth coming to the Towson Center off a victory over defending Colonial Athletic Association champion Old Dominion, the Tigers seemed to be destined for a long night.
But, in coach's parlance, what happened is "why they play the games."
Towson registered a near-perfect first half with a mere one turnover, Dennard Abraham erupted for a career-high 27 points and the Tigers fought off a late Rams rally for a 59-57 upset before 1,048 fans.
The result broke a streak of 10 consecutive losses to Virginia Commonwealth by the Tigers (11-14, 7-9 CAA), who had never won in the series.
"Obviously, this is our biggest win since we've been here," said Pat Kennedy, who is in his second season. "This is as good a win as I've had in a long time."
Matters became a little anxiety-ridden down the stretch after Abraham made a three-pointer for a 55-46 Towson lead. The Rams (16-8, 10-6) suddenly had a burst of effectiveness while pressing, forcing three straight Tigers giveaways and finally shedding their shooting woes.
Three-pointers by Nick George, VCU's top scorer who was frustrated all game by his inaccuracy (2-for-14) and Jamal Shuler and a Jesse Pellot--Rosa layup following a Rams steal closed the difference to 55-54 before two free throws each by freshman Tim Crossin (13 points, eight assists) and Lawrence Hamm pushed Towson in front by five with 7.6 seconds remaining.
B.A. Walker then hit a three-pointer for the Rams with 1.8 seconds to go. On the final Towson possession, Hamm threw the ball baseball-style almost the length of the court. VCU intercepted and Walker unloaded a 50-footer that clanged off the front of the rim as the clock expired.
"I don't think one person in the arena felt we were going to win except the people on our side [bench]," said Abraham. "I felt like anybody could step up, but that if I stayed aggressive I could be the guy. When my first three went in off the glass, I felt it was going to be a good night for me."
Towson's changing defenses held VCU to 18 first-half points and produced a 14-point Rams deficit, their largest of the season.
"Our game plan was to try to speed it up and for whatever reason, we had no energy," said VCU coach Jeff Capel. "They played with a sense of urgency and Abraham was magnificent, scoring on the blocks and on the perimeter. We couldn't stop him."
VIRIGINIA COMMONWEALTH - George 2-14 3-4 9, Faulk 1-1 2-2 4, Walker 3-9 0-0 9, Pellot-Rosa 5-10 0-0 12, Harper 0-1 0-0 0, Maynor 2-6 2-2 6, Anderson 2-5 0-0 4, Davis 2-3 0-0 4, Shuler 2-6 3-3 9. Totals 19-55 10-11 57. TOWSON - Hamm 2-9 2-2 6, Abraham 10-13 4-4 27, Pratt 1-2 0-0 3, Crossin 3-8 4-4 13, Coleman 1-6 1-2 3, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Tubbs 1-2 0-0 3, Raboin 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 20-42 11-12 59.
Halftime-Towson 32-18. 3-point goals-Va. Commonwealth 9-26 (Walker 3-8, Shuler 2-4, George 2-5, Pellot-Rosa 2-6, Anderson 0-1, Maynor 0-2), Towson 8-19 (Abraham 3-5, Crossin 3-6, Pratt 1-2, Tubbs 1-2, Hamm 0-2, Coleman 0-2). Rebounds-Va. Commonwealth 28 (Faulk 9), Towson 31 (Hamm 10). Assists-Va. Commonwealth 14 (Harper 5), Towson 16 (Crossin 8). Total fouls-Va. Commonwealth 13, Towson 9. A-1,048.