It would be safe to call Pat Skerry’s tenure as Towson men’s basketball coach a roller coaster ride.
The massively undermanned and outgunned Tigers went 1-31 during his inaugural season, then climbed sharply to 18-13 in year two – setting the NCAA record for a single year turnaround (a 17.5 game improvement overall), peaking during conference play en route to a 13-5 record and second place finish in the CAA. In year three, Skerry’s Tigers rattled off 25 wins and looked headed to the NCAA Tournament for much of the year, only to be tripped up in the CAA Tournament semifinals.
But at no point during his time in Towson has Skerry experienced as many peaks and valleys in one year as during this season.
“We had some tough road losses,” said Skerry, whose team rattled off seven straight wins during the non-conference slate to race out to a 7-1 record, only to follow it up by losing six-straight and 10 of their next 11, before turning around and winning three out of their last four. “We’ve been in games,” he continued.
All throughout their losing stretch, Skerry preached that his team could grow from their losses and be in a great position come the CAA Tournament in March, and with a resounding 86-72 road win Saturday against a Hofstra squad that had been viewed as a CAA favorite, he’s making believers out of league rivals.
“I think they’re playing some of the best basketball in the CAA right now,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen during Tuesday morning’s coaches’ conference call.
According to both Coen and Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich, toughness and tenacity on defense and on the glass have been the big difference for the Tigers.
“They’re very intense and competitive defensive team, but I think the best thing they do is get on the offensive glass.”
“We just kind of got out-toughed,” said Mihalich of Saturday’s game, which saw Towson shoot 57.8 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from behind the arc, while holding Hofstra to 38.3 and 23.1 percent, respectively.
“The toughest team won the game on Saturday when we played Towson,” explained Mihalich. “This game honored toughness, and if there was one reason that game went the way of Towson that was it right there.”
According to Skerry, the litany of losses during a brutal December and January proved to be a trial by fire for his young squad, which features eight underclassmen and just two seniors.
“There’s nothing that replicates game experience,” said Skerry. “We’ve been in so many close games this year.”
The Tigers have been led for most of the season by floor-stretching red-shirt junior shooting guard Four McGlynn, who has been Towson’s one consistent scorer all year long, averaging 12.1 points per game apiece. But it’s been the recent play of sophomore forward John Davis, a 6’5” combo who can score the ball around the hoop and away from it, and freshman forward Mike Morsell, who is averaging just 4.7 points per game but has scored a combined 29 points in the last two contests, that has given the Tigers the added dimensions they need.
“I think Jonathan Davis is playing as well as anybody in the league right now. He’s scoring the ball in the low post, he’s very versatile, he’s creating mismatch problems,” said Coen.
“He’s the youngest kid in the program. He’s got a 7-2 wingspan. He’s put on a ton of weight,” said Skerry of Morsell’s recent development.
According to Skerry, for the Tigers to make some serious noise closing out the regular season and take the CAA Tournament – held in their back yard in Baltimore – by storm, they will need both the battle-tested veterans like McGlynn and forward Timajh Parker-Rivera, and young guns like Morsell and Davis, to play up to their potential.
“We need consistency, and we’re starting to get it,” he said.