Towson Tigers men’s and women’s basketball get ready to start the new year with conference play
After spending a month on the road, the nationally ranked Towson University men’s basketball team is ready to come home.
But for head coach Pat Skerry, he knows his team has hit a rough patch. After starting the season 10-1, the Tigers are currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
Yet when talking to Skerry he doesn’t seem too worried. His team returns to SECU Arena for three-straight games after a month of being on the road — playing Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) rivals UNC Wilmington (Jan. 5), College of Charleston (Jan. 7), and Hofstra (Jan. 11).
With an extended stay at SECU Arena, Skerry is confident that his team can not only right the ship, but also get back to what won his team 10-straight games earlier this season: defense and rebounding.
“We need to make hay while we’re at home,” Skerry said. “I have all the confidence in the world that are team is good enough to do that. We had a tough stretch of four games against four good teams — two of which we lost in heartbreaking fashion. So, we have to get back to what we are good at, which is guarding and rebounding the basketball.”
The TU men’s team is second in the conference in scoring defense, with opposing teams averaging just 65.8 points per game against them. The Tigers rank in the top half of the conference in both offensive and defensive rebounds.
A solid defensive effort will be needed for the next three games. In UNC Wilmington the Tigers are taking on the defending CAA Tournament champions. College of Charleston will bring the CAA preseason favorite to SECU Arena, and have already defeated the Tigers once this season. And with Hofstra, the Tigers will have to deal with CAA leading scorer Justin Wright-Foreman.
Once again, Skerry is more than confident that his team can handle the challenges that face them the next three games. But he knows he can’t look ahead.
“Friday night is everything because we need to get on the board and win,” he said. “The entire focus is how to beat UNC Wilmington. And it starts with the stuff our coaching staff has been preaching: transition defense, guard the way we were when we started the season, and do a good job on the backboards.”
The Tigers are led by sophomore guard Zane Martin, who is fourth in the CAA in scoring, averaging 18.8 points per game. Senior guard Mike Morsell is also averaging double figures, scoring over 12.5 points per game for the Tigers.
“Zane Martin on the court has just been outstanding,” Skerry said. “He’s talented and he likes working at the craft. He has jumped so much since his freshman year, and all our guys are making strides to get better.”
In her first season at the helm of Towson Women’s basketball, head coach Diane Richardson admits there have been some ups and downs.
Bringing in a different coaching scheme than her predecessor, Richardson has been proud that the Tigers have picked up her “Fast and Furious” up-tempo playing style.
“There was a lot of learning when we first started the season,” she said. “But were seeing the improvement and the team has accepted it. They are playing up-tempo and pushing the ball in transition. We don’t stop getting under them, and stop that with constant press defense."
But while she has happy that the Tigers are adapting to her coaching style, the results aren’t where she wants them to be quite yet — the Tigers have lost their first two games in conference play.
The schedule doesn’t get easier this weekend, as the Tigers are on the road against preseason favorite James Madison on Friday, January 5. That is followed by a Sunday, January 7 game against preseason No. 3 William and Mary.
But while the road gets tough, Richardson has a simple motto for the rest of the CAA schedule.
“Keep on pushing,” she said. “Keep pushing through. Push through fatigue, push through when the defense attacks, just keep pushing. The CAA is a tough conference, so were going to try to different combinations, because my goal was to get everybody to play and score, and get everybody confident in scoring and being on the court.”
Getting people involved is evident when you look at the Tigers’ stats, with three Tigers averaging double figures: Raine Bankston (13.8), Mary Cuevas (13.6), and Nukiya Mayo (12.8). But with Richardson’ high energy play and coaching style, she feels anyone on the team could lead in scoring.
And with their high energy of play, Richardson is also hoping that the Towson University community starts to notice as well.
“We need the support of the community,” Richardson said. “When the fans are in the stands, the team feels it. And we promise you’re going to have a good time when you come out to a Tigers basketball game.”
Towson University faculty, staff and students receive two free tickets to both men’s and women’s basketball game. Check out TowsonTigers.com for more ticket information.