Tigers shoot until they find their range
Towson starts 0-for-13 from long distance, then surges on consecutive 3-pointers
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.”