Towson downs the Cougars, 72-57

One week ago, the men’s basketball team defeated Northeastern on the road in front of a national audience on the NBC Sports Network. So on Sunday afternoon, with NBCSN making the trip to the TD Arena, the Cougars were hoping for a repeat performance against preseason CAA favorite, Towson.  Unfortunately for audiences across the country and at the arena, the Cougars laid an egg and were thoroughly beaten by the Tigers, 72-57.

Charleston (10-8, 2-1) started the game well thanks to Willis Hall’s smooth shooting. Hall had 11 quick points and pushed the Cougars to a five-point lead with 12 minutes left in the first half.

The game got physical midway through the first half when Towson’s Rafriel Guthrie hit Hall hard, resulting in a flagrant foul. After Hall made the two free throws, Adjehi Baru knocked down two hook shots in the lane to give the Cougars a four-point lead with just under 10 minutes remaining in the half.

The Charleston advantage quickly evaporated and Towson (11-6, 2-0) took the lead for good. The Cougars would close the gap to two at halftime with a great defensive stop and a Baru layup with less than two seconds left.

The energy from the end of the first half did not carry over after halftime, however, as Towson began to build their lead. The Cougars would narrow the gap to six on an Anthony Sitt three with just over 14 minutes remaining, but the Tigers took back control of the game almost immediately.

A major factor was Towson’s ability to get second chance points. While Charleston held the offensive rebounding edge overall, the Tigers’ big men dominated the boards in the first half and early second half, which helped build their commanding lead.

“I thought from the very beginning of the game, when we give up an offensive rebound on the first possession, that we just didn’t get the loose balls,” remarked head coach Doug Wojcik. “We only ended up tying in rebounds because we shot so poorly, but give them credit, they came in here on a mission.”

Towson’s second half run was led by seniors Mike Burwell and Jerrelle Benimon, who combined to score 21 of the Tigers’ first 28 points of the half. Burwell (18 points) had seven straight points to push the Tigers’ lead to double figures, while Benimon (21 points, 11 rebounds) continued to pour it on from inside the paint.

“A very disappointing performance, with a great crowd, I apologize to the fans who came out and gave up the football game to be here,” Wojcik continued, referring to the afternoon AFC Championship game. “It was supposed to be for a tie atop conference and now we are back to square one, we are nobody.”

Hall led the Cougars with 20 points and 12 rebounds, while Baru finished with 15 points and 9 boards.

Charleston has a quick turn around with UNC Wilmington coming to town on Wednesday evening. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be broadcast locally on Comcast SportsNet.

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