TOWSON, Md. | It was a vexed Pat Skerry who quickly emerged from the locker room Wednesday night, in no mood to make light of the situation his Towson basketball team creates on a regularly irregular basis.
“It’s troubling, is what it is,” the ever-candid Skerry said. “It’s really troubling.”
He was specifically discussing an unpleasant assist-to-turnover imbalance. In reality, it was an apt description of the present course of the Tigers’ season.
Towson (4-8 after Wednesday’s 64-61 loss to Coppin State) is better than a year ago, when a scrappy but massively undertalented team went 1-31. Reporters up and down the East Coast streamed into the Baltimore suburbs to take a look at a dreadful team that had little chance to win on most nights.
Yet there was optimism for this season. The Tigers added three Big East transfers and could actually field a backcourt. Maybe they wouldn’t win a ton, but they could make progress.
And they have. Being competitive at Georgetown was progress. Being competitive at Temple was progress. Winning at defending America East champion Vermont was progress.
Winning four games is definite progress.
For every solid performance, there is a head-scratcher. Towson lost to a struggling, in-flux UMBC a bunch two nights after the Retrievers no-showed against Canisius. It floated through a lifeless outing Saturday in its home opener against North Dakota State.
Wednesday, it was outworked in its own gym by a team with only one senior on its roster (former Towson guard Troy Franklin).
A year ago, there was no escaping how bad the Tigers were. The goal this season isn’t so much decent play as consistency, something clearly lacking.
“We’re not. We’re absolutely not. Not lately at all,” Skerry said. “I’m absolutely frustrated with our lack of being able to do things we’re supposed to do on a consistent basis. It’s frustrating right now to play as well as we did [against] a Vermont and a Temple and a Georgetown and to play this poorly tonight or play that poorly against UMBC.”
After the last two games, Skerry seemed more flustered than at any point a year ago. It’s understandable, too; Towson lost a game Wednesday it should have won, regardless of its obvious deficiencies.
The Tigers can attack the glass, but allowed Coppin to collect 43.2 percent of its offensive rebounding opportunities. They didn’t handle the Eagles’ pressure even when they knew it was coming. They lack efficient outside shooting options (sophomore Kris Walden leads Towson with a .346 3-point shooting pefcentage).
They simply are not a good offensive team, regardless of how many double-doubles Georgetown transfer Jerrelle Benimon produces (he’s up to seven). With a freshman point guard and uneven low post play, only so much improvement can be expected.
“If we just think we’re going to come down and turn it over and have to make some miraculous offensive plays, it’s not going to happen,” Skerry said. “We saw that tonight. It ain’t going to happen. It’s certainly not going to happen in our conference.”
And that’s in a watered-down CAA, no less. Virginia Commonwealth is gone. Old Dominion (1-10) is stunningly bad. Only two teams in the league (George Mason and William & Mary) enter Thursday with winning records.
In truth, this season matters only slightly more than last year did in the big picture. The Tigers will move into a new home next season, shedding the dingy and antiquated Towson Center. They’re not eligible for the CAA tournament because of Academic Progress Rate penalties from the NCAA.
Towson’s improved over a year ago, just not enough for an increasingly frazzled Skerry.
“It’s absolutely up and down,” Skerry said. “Unfortunately in life and in business and in athletics, you’re going to get what you deserve when you’re inconsistent.”
—- Patrick Stevens