With about a minute remaining in the unexpected clash of titans that was Towson and Virginia, with the Tigers down only four in a game where they held a lead as large as eight(!), college basketball sage and personal nerd hero Ken Pomeroy tweeted the following:
"Not an exaggeration to say that Towson over UVa would be the upset of the millennium."
I had to agree. After all, Towson had a 0.4% chance of victory heading into this contest according to Pomeroy's metric. The Tigers hadn't won in over a year. And yet, they stayed in this game, even dominated at times, despite their own sloppy play and occasional downright ineptitude. Have you ever seen a D-I player dribble the ball off their foot without any pressure from the defense? It's sickening. And yet they found themselves within striking distance of a Top 25 team. How did we get here?
Heart is generally the great equalizer, and as the game tipped off, you could see Towson had it in spades. While the Cavaliers seemed to be going through the motions, the Tigers were ferociously attacking every loose ball and cleaning the glass with reckless abandon. After a little over five minutes of play, Towson led 10-2. If Towson's run had ended there, I would've been happy. To see a team going through such pains as the Tigers, an eight-point lead over a ranked ACC team on the road is something to write home about. The rest of the half went a little more by the book. UVa picked up their game a bit and reached the break leading 24-16.
As the Cavaliers stretched out their lead a bit early on in the second half, it looked like this feel-good story was done for. Like many guarantee games, the stronger squad would come out in the second half, start laying wood on the grossly overmatched opponent, and teams and spectators alike would snooze through the remainder of the game. Briefly awakening to sing the alma mater, the victors would trot off the court as their fans left satisfied with another blood sacrifice from Cardinal Direction State. Tonight would be different. Senior Robert Nwankwo scored six of his seven points in a 11-3 Tiger run to bring Towson within one with 12:58 to go. Virginia, clearly rattled, called a timeout.
From that point onward, the Tigers stuck to the Cavaliers like glue, never letting the game get away from them, always keeping it within four or so points. More importantly, Towson played like they could actually win. Amidst all the boneheaded turnovers and unnecessary fouls, the Tigers always seemed like they could compete. Virginia was clearly rattled as the squad they were supposed to steamroll stalked the Cavaliers' slim lead with predatory single-mindedness. I turned to my girlfriend in awe and uttered my first vocalization of the unthinkable.
Without a moment's hesitation, my girlfriend became a one-woman Towson cheering section (still clad in her newly purchased Virginia hoodie, mind you). She had RLU fever, and the only prescription was a Tiger victory. Old ladies seated around us spun around with curiosity to catch a glimpse of this newly minted and surprisingly vocal Towson fan. I sat silently proud, hoping against hope that the Tigers would deliver one for the ages. With about a minute remaining, Ken Pomeroy confirmed that I wasn't the only one thinking about it.
Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. Virginia reserve Malcolm Brogdon found himself open on the perimeter and heaved up his fifth shot from beyond the arc. For the first time that night, the dagger found its mark. Virginia led by seven, and it was effectively over. The final seconds slowly ticked away as Towson intentionally fouled to delay the inevitable. They wouldn't win a game in 2011. The upset of the millennium would have to wait for another night. The winning team trotted off the court, stopping only to listen to the alma mater.
My girlfriend and I left disappointed, but thrilled at the spectacle we had witnessed. Sure, the black and white outcome was a loss for Towson. But for the two of us tonight, it showed something more. Sometimes you get so close to capturing lightning in a bottle that it almost feels like you did.
at VIRGINIA 57, TOWSON 50 12/30/2011
TOWSON 0-13 (0-1) -- M. Damas 5-9 1-2 13; D. Jones 2-8 0-0 4; K. Walden 6-13 0-0 15; R. Nwankwo 3-3 1-2 7; E. Gumbs 3-7 3-6 9; A. Giergen 0-1 0-0 0; J. Pressley 0-2 0-0 0; W. Adams 1-2 0-0 2; J. Flash 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 5-10 50. VIRGINIA 12-1 (0-0) -- J. Evans 0-3 0-1 0; J. Harris 5-11 5-9 17; S. Zeglinski 6-12 4-4 20; M. Scott 3-7 1-2 7; A. Mitchell 0-0 1-2 1; M. Brogdon 2-9 4-4 9; A. Sene 0-3 3-4 3; D. Atkins 0-1 0-0 0; P. Jesperson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-46 18-26 57.
Three-point goals: TOWS 5-18 (E. Gumbs 0-3; A. Giergen 0-1; M. Damas 2-4; D. Jones 0-2; K. Walden 3-8), UVA 7-19 (M. Scott 0-1; S. Zeglinski 4-8; J. Harris 2-5; M. Brogdon 1-5); Rebounds: TOWS 24 (E. Gumbs 6), UVA 29 (J. Harris 7); Assists: TOWS 5 (E. Gumbs 1), UVA 9 (J. Evans 5); Total Fouls -- TOWS 20, UVA 12; Fouled Out: TOWS-None; UVA-None.