The Towson University men's basketball program is familiar with epic turnarounds. After recording a 1-31 record during the 2011-12 season, the 2012-13 Tigers completed an all-time NCAA best single-season turnaround when they went 18-13.
While it may not have been a record-breaking effort, the 2015-16 season made for another bounce-back performance. Towson went from a 20-loss team in 2014-15 (12-20 overall) to a 20-win team in 2015-16 (20-11 regular season). The Tigers earned the No. 3 seed in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament with an 11-7 conference mark but were eliminated after a 71-60 loss to Northeastern during the quarterfinal round March 5.
"Well, we don't want any more turnarounds," head coach Pat Skerry said. "It's a credit to the players. The whole thing. We touched on it last year … do we have guys that are interested or committed?"
A key addition to the Tigers' young roster was redshirt junior forward Arnaud William Adala Moto. After sitting out the 2014-15 season in accordance with NCAA transfer rules, Adala Moto earned second-team All-CAA honors during his first year with Towson, which he said required some upfront adjustment to his playing style.
"This has been a learning experience," Adala Moto said. "For myself, this is my first year playing in this league -- I thought it was less physical, and so I had to adjust my game and limit my turnovers. I think, as a team, we're still growing, and we're glad to have mostly everybody back. We put in a lot of work last year to be in this position, and I expect us to put in more work in the offseason, so that we can do better."
Adala Moto paced the team with 13.6 points per game -- good for 10th best in the CAA -- and brought down 8.2 rebounds per game, good for third most in the CAA. During Towson's loss to Northeastern, Adala Moto led the team with 18 points, but he and the rest of the Tigers were virtually nonexistent in the paint.
No other team in the CAA went to the free-throw line as often as Towson did during the regular season, as the team attempted 802 free throws in 31 games. About 24.5 percent of the Tigers' points during the regular season came from the free-throw line, but against Northeastern, the Tigers only attempted eight free throws and made just three.
For Skerry, that number was baffling.
"We just couldn't get to the foul line for whatever reason," Skerry said. "Obviously, they played some zone, but probably half the year we saw some zone and still got to the foul line. We just couldn't get to the foul line tonight -- we'll forever wonder why."
If the Tigers are superstitious, they can look forward to the conference tournament moving out of their own backyard in Baltimore. After winning just one game during the last three seasons at Royal Farms Arena, Skerry said he is looking forward to the tournament moving to Charleston, S.C., starting next year.
"I love living in Baltimore, but I'll be happy to see the tournament go to Charleston," Skerry said. "We've had some tough luck here."
Going forward, the Tigers will look to continue building on the momentum from their success this season. In addition to Adala Moto, who will return for his senior season, a lot of Towson's success came from the maturation of the team's young core group of players. Sophomores Byron Hawkins and Mike Morsell will stand to benefit from another year of experience.
Hawkins emerged as a much-needed point guard this season after the departure of Four McGlynn, who transferred to Rhode Island during the offseason. Hawkins contributed 13.4 points per game for the Tigers and recorded an assist-to-turnover ratio of about two-to-one. Morsell earned third-team All-CAA honors after averaging 12.7 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
"This group's been really fun to coach," Skerry said. "We have a good core back, and that's exciting. They played hard all year and had good chemistry, great to be around."
Issue 219: March 2016