With their 74-47 rout of Abilene Christian on Saturday, the Towson Tigers extended their record to 6-2 on this young 2013-14 season. After leading his team to the biggest season-to-season turnaround in NCAA history last year, Pat Skerry now has the Tigers off to the best start in program history.
Jerrelle Benimon is once again pacing the Tigers, leading the team in points, rebounds, assists and blocks. He’s averaging a ridiculous 17.0 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.0 blocks per game. But it’s a well-rounded offense that has five players scoring at least 9.0 points per game that really has Towson clicking early.
Mid Major Madness caught up with the CAA preseason Player of the Year to talk about his team’s November success.
MMM: Towson is off to its best start in program history. How does it feel?
Jerrelle Benimon: It feels good. We lost a couple tough ones to two good teams, but 6-2? We’ll take that for right now, for sure.
MMM: Did you guys have a mindset entering this year that this would be the best season Towson has ever had?
JB: I think everybody on our team has high expectations for this year. A lot of people were talking about us before the season. We all worked really hard this summer to get ready for the season and I think everybody has high aspirations now that we’re back on the court.
MMM: There a few new additions to your team this year, most notably sharpshooter Four McGlynn, who you told me is the best shooter in the CAA over the summer. How important have those guys been for your success early on?
JB: They’ve been really good. I think we’re shooting the ball much better this year from the field, especially from three. I think the freshmen are playing well, Four’s playing well and I think that everyone from last year have also improved their shooting as well.
MMM: Entering the season, we knew you were expected to have another great year and you were named CAA preseason player of the year. But we also knew that it would take a full team effort to propel the Tigers to the first place that you guys were ranked in the fall. Your supporting cast, guys like Marcus Damas and Jerome Hairston, have been playing very well as of late. How confident are you in your teammates’ ability to keep getting the job done night in and night out?
JB: I’m pretty confident in those guys. I’ve been around them for a while now, so we’ve developed some pretty good chemistry. I think everybody had really good summers and it’s carrying over right now. As long as everyone keeps playing well together, we should be fine.
MMM: When I talked to Coach Skerry over the summer, he said he was going to use you in more of a play-making role this season and perhaps even a bit at point guard. You’re averaging 4.0 assists per game and leading the team in assists. Do you feel comfortable playing that type of role?
JB: Yea, I did the same thing in high school. I’ve always been a pretty good passer and I think I see stuff developing pretty well on the court. I really don’t mind being a playmaker at times and I think that adds something to our offense.
MMM: Does Towson as a team have any goals to accomplish before you finish non-conference play?
JB: Oh, we want to win all the games we have scheduled in non-conference play. I’ve seen a lot of teams in our conference are playing pretty well, so we need to finish strong so hopefully we have everything down pat once conference play starts. We need to be ready. I still think we have a little bit of work to do. We need to fix how we attack pressure in the half-court and full-court pressure, too. That troubled us a lot against Villanova. We need to make sure we have all that stuff down before we enter conference play.
MMM: Is there a non-conference game remaining that you have circled on your calendar?
JB: We’ve play some really good teams already, but I’m looking forward to playing both Oregon State and North Dakota State. We lost to North Dakota here last year, so hopefully we can get them back on their home court.
MMM: You had a 20-20 against Oregon State last year. If you don’t repeat that, it’s a waste of a trip, right?
JB: [Laughs] Yea. They have some talented big guys that I’m looking forward to playing against again.
MMM: Looking ahead to January, you said there are a lot of teams in the CAA that are doing well. Is there one team in the conference that you’ve been following the most or a team you’re looking forward to playing the most?
JB: I’ve been hearing pretty good stuff about Drexel. I’ve seen Drexel play. I’ve seen Northeastern play. I haven’t seen Delaware play yet, but I know [Devon] Saddler is actually out right now. Obviously Drexel played a bunch of big teams down to the wire and they also got a pretty big win over Alabama, I saw. I know Northeastern had a big win in Puerto Rico.