By Kevin Sweeney
A win before a long lay-off can be huge for a team, as going into a break with some positive momentum can be incredibly beneficial for a team’s confidence when they get back on the floor.
Towson can take plenty of positives away from their final non-conference game, a 76-69 win over Iona in each team’s last game at the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Tigers have a nine day break before their next game, a huge home match-up with CAA frontrunner UNC-Wilmington.
Simply put, the Tigers did all the things a team wants to do in a tough ballgame. They won the rebounding battle by 11, went to the free throw line 19 more times than the Gaels, and got strong contributions from their role players. In addition, they held the Gaels high-powered offense in check, allowing Iona to shoot just 41% from the field while not conceding a single fast break point.
In the first half, the Towson defense did a superb job of not allowing Iona to get any sort of flow offensively. Iona star center Jordan Washington was saddled with foul trouble, but was mostly ineffective when on the court as Towson’s young big men, sophomore Alex Thomas and freshman Justin Gorham, did an excellent job guarding the senior Washington. The Gaels had just one assist in the entire first half, as much of their work was done late in the shot clock in isolation looks.
Meanwhile, junior college transfer Brian Starr gave the Tigers a big boost offensively, scoring 7 points in the first half despite averaging just 3.9 per game coming into today’s contest. Starr finished with a career-high 14 points.
After back-to-back buckets by Iona guard Sam Cassell Jr. cut Towson’s early lead to 22-20, the Tigers went on a 15-5 run to conclude the opening half, taking a 37-25 lead into halftime.
Coming out of the break, it looked like Towson was ready to run away with the game, extending their lead to 15 in the opening stages of the second half. However, that would be the largest lead of the game for the Tigers, as Iona continued to hang tough. At times, Iona’s Jon Severe dominated, scoring all 20 of his points in the second half.
Every time Iona made a push to get back into the game, the Tigers responded well. After a Washington layup cut the Iona deficit to just 4 with 10:45 to play in the game, Towson went on a 13-3 run to reassert control. That run proved to be decisive, as Iona never drew closer than 7 following the spurt.
Towson also did an excellent job of not allowing the Gaels to get back into the game down the stretch, making their free throws and protecting the 3-point arc.
Mike Morsell led the way for the Tigers with 19 points and 6 rebounds. William Adala Moto added 14 for Towson, who finished non-conference play 8-5 with quality wins over George Mason and Iona.
Iona, who was led by Severe’s 20 points and 12 from Washington, falls to 8-4 on the season. The Gaels return to action Wednesday on the road at Delaware.