Neal finds groove for Towson

Senior scores 21 of his 29 in second half of win over Vermont

Towson 67 Vermont 54

College basketball

December 02, 2006|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun reporter

Towson's Gary Neal had nearly a week to ponder one of the worst games of his basketball career.

He bounced back just fine last night, scoring 21 of his 29 points in the second half to add a touch of elegance to an otherwise ragged meeting with Vermont that the host Tigers took with surprising ease, 67-54.

Coach Pat Kennedy shook up his starting five against a Catamounts team that had won by 14 at Boston College, but he gave no consideration to benching his senior guard.

Neal made 44.5 percent of his field-goal attempts last season, when he averaged 26.1 points, but a 2-for-16 effort against Tennessee State in the Las Vegas Invitational dropped the senior guard to 36.4 percent shooting for the month of November.

"You go 2-for-16, and you lose," said Neal, who was 9-for-18 last night. "If that doesn't affect you mentally, then you don't care."

Neal missed four of his first five shots, but remained active and broke open a tight game at the Towson Center by scoring 10 straight points, giving the Tigers a 58-45 lead with 4:58 remaining.

"What got me going was the free-throw line," said Neal, who was 8-for-8 from the line, including two free throws after a technical on Vermont coach Mike Lonergan, a former Maryland assistant, with 14:21 remaining.

The first free throw was taken in the 13th minute, and Vermont didn't get one until the 30th, then on a flagrant foul by Tim Crossin. An officiating crew with Atlantic Coast Conference experience let them play, and all adapted to the no X-ray, no-foul approach by grabbing and pounding any shooter in the paint.

Towson (4-3) used that loose leash to block 12 shots, one shy of the school record, and limit Vermont (3-4) to 34.4 percent shooting. The two were rivals in the America East Conference until 2001, when Towson joined a four-team exodus to the Colonial Athletic Association.

"We must have watched the BC tape 25 times," Kennedy said of Vermont's recent upset.

Crossin scored 13 points off the bench, as Kennedy gave junior college transfer C.C. Williams his first start at point guard. Jonathan Pease, who missed last season after knee surgery, got his first start since March 2005.

Randallstown High graduate Tommy Breaux, another junior college transfer, had six blocks and a team-high six rebounds.

Kennedy sought the new energy in his first five after the Tigers staggered at the end of the Las Vegas Invitational.

Towson is 3-0 at the Towson Center, where Neal had scored 41 points, a record for a Tiger there, in its previous home game, against Samford. The Tigers open CAA play next Tuesday at William and Mary, where they are 0-7.

"Now we've got to go on the road, apply the same system and not get hurt," Kennedy said.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

VERMONT-Cieplicki 4-7 0-0 11, Holm 1-6 0-0 2, Klimes 2-5 0-0 4, Trapani 6-15 1-2 15, Trimboli 3-12 2-2 11, Green 0-0 0-0 0, Sisca 0-0 0-0 0, Vier 2-6 0-1 4, Powlovich 0-1 0-0 0, Blakely 0-0 0-0 0, McCrory 0-1 0-0 0, McIntosh 3-8 0-0 7. Totals 21-61 3-5 54. TOWSON-Abraham 3-8 0-1 6, Tubbs 1-5 0-0 2, Pease 2-4 0-0 6, Williams 2-5 0-2 4, Neal 9-18 8-8 29, Crossin 4-7 3-3 13, Coleman 2-3 0-0 5, Breaux 1-4 0-0 2, Spruill 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 11-14 67. Half-Towson, 26-22. 3-point goals-Vermont 9-21 (Cieplicki 3-4, Trimboli 3-10, Trapani 2-5, McIntosh 1-1, Vier 0-1), Towson 8-20 (Neal 3-9, Pease 2-3, Crossin 2-5, Coleman 1-1, Abraham 0-2). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-Vermont 41 (Holm, Trapani 10), Towson 33 (Breaux 6). Assists-Vermont 12 (Trimboli 6), Towson 12 (Williams 5). Total fouls-Vermont 12, Towson 8. A-2,134.

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