File Photo Courtesy of Mark Campbell
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TOWSON, Md. -- Towson scored the first 11 points of the game and led wire to wire as the Tigers cruised to an 85-65 victory over the University of Delaware in Colonial Athletic Association men’s basketball action Wednesday night at the Towson Center.
The Tigers, who won their third straight game, improved to 13-12 overall and 8-4 in the CAA by sweeping the season series with Delaware and snapping a two-game home losing skid to the Blue Hens. Delaware had its three-game winning streak snapped, as the Blue Hens dropped to 11-12 overall and 6-4 in conference play.
Jerrelle Benimon again led Towson with 21 points, 12 rebounds and five assists as he posted his Division I leading 17th double-double of the season. Jerome Hairston added 17 points, Marcus Damas had 16 points and eight boards, and Mike Burwell chipped in with 12 points as Towson put four players in double figures.
The Tigers shot 51.6 percent from the field, just the third Blue Hen opponent to shoot over 50 percent this season and the first since Duke on Dec. 1, and connected on 14 of 19 free throw attempts. Towson also held a commanding 51-27 rebounding advantage, grabbing the most boards by a Delaware foe this year.
The Tigers also enjoyed a 40-18 margin in points in the paint, as the Blue Hens struggled mightily from inside all night. Delaware finished the contest just 17 of 59 from the field for a 28.8 percentage, despite going 7 of 11 from three-point range. The Blue Hens, ranked 10th in the nation in free throw shooting, did help their cause by finishing 24 of 32 from the charity stripe.
UD junior guard Devon Saddler (at right) led Delaware with 20 points, reaching double figures for a CAA best 29th straight game and recording his ninth 20-point game of the campaign. But Saddler finished just 4 of 20 from the floor, although he did connect on all 10 of his free throw attempts.
Senior Jamelle Hagins added 14 points and a team-best eight rebounds for Delaware, while Kyle Anderson contributed nine points while hitting all three of his attempts from behind the arc. However Anderson was forced to miss a majority of the second half after taking an elbow to the mouth and leaving to receive stitches.
“We just missed a lot of shots in close, and they made their shots,” said seventh-year Blue Hen head coach Monté Ross. “We missed so many shots in the paint, and it was bizarre to shoot so well from three-point range but so poorly inside. Our guys had shots they normally make that weren’t falling tonight, so it’s human nature to start pressing a bit.”
Towson jumped out to an early 9-0 lead, forcing a Delaware time out just 2:51 into the contest. The lead grew to 11 as the Blue Hens missed their first eight shots from the field, before Saddler finally scored with 14:49 to play in the half.
Later Delaware used a 6-0 spurt to pull within three, but the Tigers answered with seven consecutive points of their own to go back up 23-13 on a Burwell three-pointer with 7:36 on the clock.
Saddler hit a three-pointer for the Blue Hens but Towson answered with another 7-0 spurt, pushing the margin to 30-16 on a Benimon three-pointer with five and a half minutes to go. Anderson stopped the bleeding with his third three-pointer of the half, and after a Josh Brinkley layup brought UD within nine, a free throw by the Tigers’ Bilal Dixon made it a 33-23 game at the break.
Towson then opened the second half with a quick 7-0 spurt, taking a 40-23 margin and forcing a Delaware time out with 18:22 remaining. Saddler answered for UD but the Blue Hens opened the second half just 1 of 12 from the floor, as Towson eventually went up 49-28 on a Benimon layup at the 12:23 mark.
After each team scored a bucket Delaware went on a 7-0 run, capped with a basket by Brinkley, to close within 51-37 with 11:08 to play. However Damas answered with a pair of baskets for the Tigers, who continued to hold a comfortable margin for the next four minutes.
The Blue Hens were again within 14 when Saddler buried a three-pointer with 7:03 to play, and a three-point play by Hagins cut the Towson lead to 64-51 with 6:16 on the clock. But Towson quickly countered with seven straight points to go back up 20, and the Blue Hens did not threaten from there.
Delaware is back in action on Saturday at 2 p.m. when the Blue Hens travel to Fairfax. Va. to take on George Mason. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. at the Patriot Center and the game will be televised by the CBS Sports Network.