On November 9, 2012, in what was the first game of the 2012-13 season that I covered in my new home of South Carolina, Towson faced the College of Charleston at TD Arena. It was the first time in four years I had been at the John Kresse Court at TD Arena. Four years prior, I was there on vacation for the inaugural Charleston Classic with my good friend Tony Terentieff. A year and two months ago, I was there sitting on press row, two hours away from where I now lived in Columbia, South Carolina
In November 2012, Pat Skerry was coming off a 1-31 record in his first season coaching the Tigers. He finally had several of his transfers eligible, including Jerome Benimon and Mike Burrell. Meanwhile, the Cougars were spending their last season in the Southern Conference as they had announced earlier that they were joining the CAA. The veteran Cougars jumped on the Tigers, scoring forty of the first fifty four points in the game. Towson played much better in the second half, but Charleston went on to win the game 70-58.
Fast forward to a year and a couple of months later. The preseason CAA conference favorites, Towson entered TD Arena Sunday afternoon with an 11-6 record including a 2-0 record in the CAA. The Tigers came into the game with a four game winning streak, including an impressive 80-68 road win over Drexel.
a game that I attended. However the CofC entered Sunday's game having won five of its last six games for a 10-8 record on the season and a 2-1 record in conference. They also came off an impressive road win, downing Northeastern 58-49, a game that I watched on the NBC Sports channel.
The game started Sunday at 3:30 PM, which was right smack at the beginning of the AFC Championship Game. My guess is that the football game kept a few people away, but there was still a good crowd to see the basketball game. Also I had it on good authority that there were a number of NBA scouts in the building, likely there to see one player in particular, the double double machine Jerome Benimon. Sunday, I was sitting up in Section 204, dead center court to see how Benimon would fair against the Cougars.
The game started out with the Cougars' Willis Hall, a near near double double machine in his own right, stroking a three pointer. This is not unusual for Hall, who shoots nearly forty three percent from beyond the arc. Hall would add a tip-in and two more three pointers later on to give Charleston a 14-9 lead. In seven and a half minutes, Hall already had eleven points for the Cougars.
Charleston would retake the lead as the Cougars' other talented post player, Adjehi Baru scored four of CofC's next six points, including a jumper to give Charleston a 21-17 lead. After his jumper, the crowd gave a loud BARUUUU cheer. It would be the last time the Cougars would have the lead the rest of the game.
After Theo Johnson hit two free throws for Charleston to tie the game at twenty five, Mike Burrell found Benimon, who drilled a three pointer to put the Tigers back up in front. Burrell would hit his own three to give Towson a six point lead, 31-25. Benimon was already on his way to a double double with eight points and seven rebounds in the first half. But Hall would respond for the Cougars by hitting a jumper then assisting Baru on a basket. Charleston would enter the half only down two, 31-29. Hall led all scorers with fifteen first half points.
The second half saw Benimon pick up right where he left off. He first hit a jumper, then assisted on a Burwell jumper to put Towson up 35-31. Then after Thomas cut the Tigers' lead to three, 37-34, Benimon responded with two straight jumpers to extend Towson's lead to seven, 41-34. Charleston Head Coach Doug Wojcik called timeout, trying to stop the Tigers' momentum, but it ultimately failed.
That's when another of Skerry's transfers, Burrell, went to work. Burrell, a transfer from South Florida, started taking Stitt off the dribble drive and Stitt couldn't handle him. First Burrell drove past Stitt for a layup and one. But he missed the free throw. Then on the Tigers' next possession, again Burrell got a layup and one on Stitt. This time he hit the free throw for the three point play to put the Tigers up 53-41.
To make matters worse for the home fans, Charleston went into a major scoring drought during this time. The Cougars went seven minutes and forty five seconds without scoring a field goal. Finally with three minutes left, Stitt hit a layup to cut the lead to fourteen, 57-43.
Towson shot forty eight percent in the second half and forty three percent for the game. Benimon had his ninth double double in a row with twenty points and twelve rebounds, six of which came off the offensive glass. He showed a nice mid range jumper, good ball handling and even nailed a three pointer. Benimon also added three assists and two steals. Burwell added eighteen points, shooting eight of thirteen from the field. Guthrie added fourteen points off the bench and McGlynn had eleven points. Towson is now 3-0 in the CAA and 12-6 overall.
As I walked out of the Arena onto Meeting Street, I walked around Charleston for a little bit. Having stayed overnight in "America's Friendliest City" in September and hung out with my friends in Chucktown this past November, I didn't stay too long this time because I had a two hour drive back home to Columbia.
Understanding where Towson was a year and two months ago, I could appreciate the fact that Tigers had come full circle, as my life here in South Carolina has come full circle too.