WASHINGTON (AP) — After going 1-31 last season, Towson retained only three scholarship players and added three transfers from the Big East. The Tigers also put together a schedule that was something — literally — to write home about, opening with 10 straight games on the road.
They’re off to a decent start, and Game No. 9 was nearly a major upset. Towson stayed close the entire way before falling 46-40 to cold-shooting No. 15 Georgetown.
“The biggest thing is our new and better players,” Towson coach Pat Skerry said. “When you get good players, it makes you look like a pretty good coach.”
The best of the new arrivals was an ace in the hole against the Hoyas. Georgetown transfer Jerrelle Benimon had 11 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Tigers (4-5), and he played traffic cop on defense for a team that often seemed to know what was coming from the Princeton Offense.
“I could read stuff. I played in the offense, so it’s just a whole bunch of reads, so once you see one thing you can sniff it out,” Benimon said. “It helped a lot, especially in the first half.”
The Tigers held the Hoyas (7-1) to 17 percent shooting in the first half and 29 percent for the game, but Towson was undone by 22 turnovers and a 33 percent shooting performance that was only a little better than Georgetown’s.
With the game on the line, the Tigers’ final possessions were a hodgepodge of turnovers and air balls. Towson’s final points came on a 3-pointer from freshman point guard Jerome Hairston that cut the Hoyas’ lead to 42-40 with 4:35 to play.
“It was one of those games where we said, ‘Let’s try to make it as ugly as possible,’” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “This group, we can win a lot of different ways. We can win at a fast pace. We can win at a slow pace. We can win what purists may call pretty. But we can also win ugly, and I thought that in the second half we had to win ugly today.”
If that’s the case, the strategy was a roaring success. Georgetown managed to win despite its second clankfest in eight days. The Hoyas set the school record for scoring futility in the shot clock era with a 37-36 win over Tennessee — a game Thompson compared to one he played when he was 8 years old.
This time, he was more defensive about the offensiveness of his offense. He said he was concerned about the lack of scoring, but not overly concerned. He insisted he has “good offensive players,” but he said they are “immature offensively” and “have a lot of growing up to do.”
“We have a lot of guys that are thinking, trying to figure out where to go, what to do, what reads to make,” Thompson said. “It’s something we have to work on.”
Greg Whittington scored 11 points, and Mikael Hopkins and Otto Porter had 10 apiece for the Hoyas, whose only loss came in overtime against No. 1 Indiana. Towson was the first of four home opponents in the soft part of the schedule that, in theory, is supposed to give Thompson a chance to give his bench some much-needed work, but Tigers showed they are no longer a punch line of a team.
“We got some talent and they compete pretty hard,” Skerry said, “and as we get more and more cohesive, I think we have a change of having a pretty good ball club and obviously build a special program.”