Tigers shoot un­til they find their range

Tow­son starts 0-for-13 from long dis­tance, then surges on con­sec­u­tive 3-point­ers

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Jonas Shaf­fer

For the bet­ter part of Tues­day night, the Tow­son men’s bas­ket­ball team had found 3-point­ers as elu­sive as its shadow. A good look was there, the shot went up, and it was as if the rim at Mor­gan State had moved.

But with the Tigers ahead by seven points late in the sec­ond half, their 0-for-13 first-half per­for­mance from long range fad­ing with ev­ery bounce of the ball, ju­nior for­ward Ar­naud Wil­liam Adala Moto took a kick-out in the left corner. He was so wide open, he took his time, and the game seemed to slow with him. When the ball found the bot­tom of the net, and the Tigers fi­nally had a de­ci­sive lead, their side­line erupted in tri­umph. Ju­nior guard Ed­die Keith II, sit­ting on the bench, rose with them, his left arm shoot­ing up, his hand sig­nal­ing a 3.

It was not a game for, say, the Golden State War­riors to envy, or for Tow­son coach Pat Sk­erry to re­gard as the height of the Tigers’ po­ten­tial, but it was a win, 78-72, and an im­por­tant one: Mor­gan State’s home opener, a Baltimore ri­valry be­fore an an­nounced 3,047, their sec­ond vic­tory in as many games.

“That was prob­a­bly the ic­ing on top,” Adala Moto, who fin­ished with 19 points and two of the team’s eight 3-point­ers (on 25 at­tempts over­all), said of the shot.

Hav­ing trailed for much of a ragged first half, Tow­son, quite im­prob­a­bly, took its first lead of the sec­ond half on a 3.

When ju­nior guard Mike Morsell’s shot from the wing swished through for a 36-34 ad­van­tage three min­utes in, he spun up the side­line, blow­ing off steam with choice words for him­self and maybe the team.

Their next pos­ses­sion, the Tigers beat the Bears (0-2) down­court for an open look in the corner for Adala Moto. That, too, went in.

After13 straight misses, they’d hit two in a row. Mor­gan State called for a time­out, maybe as much out of strat­egy as sheer dis­be­lief.

The game re­mained tight through the sec­ond half, Hill Field House’s ris­ing en­ergy draw­ing from ev­ery big miss and make.

An­other 3-pointer by Morsell (22 points) made it 62-57 with 7:19 re­main­ing, and Thurs­day, 7:30 p.m.

Keith ex­tended the lead to 65-59 with a deep jumper. Three min­utes later, Adala Moto got his ic­ing.

“In the first half, we kind of hunted jump shots,” Sk­erry said. “Peo­ple are go­ing to say we can’t shoot. We can shoot, but our ball move­ment needs to be bet­ter.”

So does their shot se­lec­tion. In their sea­son-open­ing 67-61 win Satur­day at Ge­orge Ma­son, the Tigers shot 3-for-15 from 3-point range. Their 20 per­cent mark was the worst in the 10-team Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion.

By the time the first half ended Tues­day, Tow­son could have been gifted three 3-point­ers and still not have im­proved on its Game 1 lon­grange ac­cu­racy.

On the team’s 12th miss in 12 at­tempts, Sk­erry shook his head, turned to voice his dis­plea­sure to his coach­ing staff and stood rooted on the court, arms akimbo.

Three-pointer No. 13 was not a lucky one. With seven sec­onds re­main­ing af­ter a turnover, Tow­son worked for a shot on the left wing from deep. It didn’t touch any­thing.

“Air ball,” the Mor­gan State stu­dent sec­tion chanted as the teams headed for the locker rooms, the Bears up 30-25.

“I did want it to be more, and it should’ve been more,” Mor­gan State coach Todd Boze­man said. “And then even in the sec­ond half, when they made the 3s, they still were sup­posed to be con­tested.”

The Bears’ home opener was theirs to con­trol for much of the open­ing 20 min­utes. Tow­son led by as many as five, 10-5, in the open­ing min­utes. Then came Mor­gan State’s 22-7 run.

Ju­nior guard Ti­wian Kend­ley led the way and had 12 points in the first half, the only player in dou­ble fig­ures, fin­ish­ing with a game-high 26.

Still, their early ad­van­tage wasn’t enough, Kend­ley re­al­ized. Tow­son had shot just 25 per­cent over­all in the first half.

That would change. The 3-point­ers would come, as surely the Tigers would come back.

“I knew it wasn’t go­ing to con­tinue all game,” he said. “I knew they were even­tu­ally go­ing to hit some 3s. I mean, that’s part of the game.”

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