Before a well-earned, 10-day stretch with no games, Towson welcomes in-state counterpart UMBC to SECU Arena.
Who: UMBC Terriers (5-5) at Towson Tigers (4-5)
When: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 7 p.m. ET
Where: SECU Arena
Watch: LIVE on FloHoops
The series began in 2001, and has been played almost every year since – there was a brief layoff in 2006 and 2007. UMBC dominated the first half-decade of the series, but Tuesday’s matchup marks Towson’s opportunity at seven consecutive wins.
Among those is a 78-65 defeat of the Terriers squad that made NCAA Tournament history with its upset of Virginia in the 2018 Dance, the first and only time a No. 16 seed has ever beaten a No. 1.
Of course, that was two years ago and it’s a new team at UMBC. While the Terriers rebuild, Towson looks to finish non-conference play strong and fight for the Colonial Athletic Association. The Tigers near the end of this early-season portion of the schedule with the CAA’s second-best KenPom.com ranking, and three more opportunities to bolster that before the conference-opener against Northeastern.
UMBC Terriers At A Glance
Ryan Odom’s done a remarkable program-building job in his time at UMBC. He inherited a team that failed to win even 10 games for seven consecutive seasons; in his first year, Odom led the Terriers to 21 wins.
UMBC has hit the 21-win threshold each of his first three seasons. Making it four straight will be a challenge.
Names To Know
No stranger to CAA competition, UMBC leading scorer L.J. Owens spent the 2018-19 season at William & Mary, where he contributed almost seven points per game primarily as a reserve. He is one of four Terriers scoring in double-figures.
K.J. Jackson, who missed the first two weeks of the season, started slow with 13 points and seven turnovers against LSU and Eastern Michigan. He’s since come alive, posting 19 points in three consecutive games – including a win over Towson’s CAA counterpart, Drexel – and has a pair of games with three steals.
The Terriers are without 5-foot-2 guard Darnell Rogers, the son of George Washington legend Shawnta Rogers. His absence has put much of the outside shooting responsibility on Owens and Keondre Kennedy, although Kennedy’s started the season off cold at 5-of-22 from long range.
UMBC has made its bones on defense more than offense for most of Odom’s tenure. The 2016-17 Terriers were quite good on offense, ranking No. 108 in adjusted offensive efficiency, with a 3-point field goal percentage of 38.5 and 2-point percentage of 51.5. In more recent seasons, however, the Terriers have failed to crack the nation’s top 200 for adjusted offensive efficiency.
You can blame a slow start shooting from downtown and turnovers for the Terriers’ struggles on offense this season. UMBC is making just 28.3 percent of its 3-point attempts, a byproduct of playing without Rogers. The Terriers are also committing turnovers on 21.5 percent of their possessions.
When UMBC scores 65 points or more, it’s 5-1. It’s 0-4 when scoring under that mark.
Odom’s teams flourish on defense, and thus far in 2019-20, that’s been the Terriers identity again. However, it’s a risk-reward defense that’s forced turnovers on 23 percent of possessions, but allowed opponents to shoot 55.5 percent from inside the 3-point arc.
The Terriers lack a clear, leading rim protector, so defending the paint has been challenging. In contrast, Towson has not attacked the interior particularly effectively.
Towson Tigers At A Glance
Few non-conference schedules around college basketball have been as grueling as Towson’s. Saturday’s 55-38 defensive struggle with perennial NCAA Tournament-bid contender Vermont marked the Tigers’ fourth matchup with an opponent ranked in the KenPom.com top 100 – and fifth with a team ranked No. 105 or better.
Towson has yet to secure one of those top 105 wins, but the flip side is that Towson’s won all its games against lower-ranked competition. That includes double-digit-point victories over Atlantic 10 opponents George Washington and Saint Joseph’s.
Names To Know
Brian Fobbs is off to a strong start offensively – and once his 3-point shot starts falling, he’ll be one of the most dangerous scorers in the CAA. Fobbs is averaging 14.1 points per game despite shooting 15 percent from deep. A season ago, he hit nearly 37 percent from behind the arc, so expect him to start cooking in time for CAA play.
The All-CAA Tiger leads a rotation that goes deep: Allen Betrand, Juwan Gray, Jason Gibson, Jakigh Dottin, Charles Thompson and Dennis Tunstall have all appeared in every Towson game. Betrand is averaging 12.2 points per game, Tunstall is scoring 5.2 points with 5.9 rebounds, and Gray is averaging 8.2 points per game.
Nakye Sanders missed some time in November, but is back in the lineup and providing an all-around contribution. He gives the Tigers needed size on the interior, and a physical presence on the glass.
Pat Skerry’s offensive approach can be described as methodical. On average, Tigers use almost 20 of the 30 seconds on the shot clock. They like to make defenses move and wear down before getting up a shot.
Towson also rebounds well on the offensive glass, snapping 31.4 percent of their own misses. That ranks 90th among all Div. I programs.
The offense flows primarily through Fobbs, an effective scorer who put up north of 17 points per game a season ago. He’s prime for a breakout down the stretch ahead of CAA play.
Towson’s been excellent on defense, holding offensively savvy opponents Florida and Vermont to just 66 and 44 points. Defending from behind the arc has been key, with the Tigers holding teams below 30 percent shooting from outside.
Towson is also generating a steal on 10 percent of defensive possessions. The addition of Sanders back into the lineup gives Towson an aggressive ball-hawk, capable of forcing turnovers on attempted entries into the paint. Sanders, Gray and Tunstall have also been effective rim protectors inside.