Pat Skerry continues to experiment as Towson rolls past Wesley (Del.)

Newly-welcomed point guard Tobias Howard (0) posted his second straight game in the double-figure scoring department versus Wesley on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Towson University athletics

TOWSON — After Tuesday’s season-opening, 31-point loss at No. 5 Virginia, Towson coach Pat Skerry rehashed an old quote from a college basketball mastermind: “I told our guys, and I heard this from [Kentucky] Coach [John] Calipari, that ‘there’s winning and there’s learning.’ ”

Calipari is best known for his gaudy recruiting classes, turning some of the youngest teams into title contenders by season’s end. Skerry doesn’t have resources like Calipari, but he sure tries to maximize what’s feasible and does a pretty good job of doing so. Over the last six seasons, Skerry’s Tigers have won at least 18 games. Last year, they got off to their best start in school history (10 wins through 11 games).

But as this new season presses into Week 2, Skerry and his Tigers face perhaps the steepest learning curve since they’ve become a yearly conference contender. The top seven players from a fifth-place conference finish last season are gone and only three familiar faces remain. Nine newcomers fill the voids, including two redshirt freshmen.

On Sunday, Skerry learned some more about his squad, as Towson rolled to a free-flowing win over Division III Wesley (Del.), 93-66, ahead of its venture to the Bahamas later this week for three straight games.

Roles are still being situated, but redshirt freshman Quinton Drayton (Bowie High School) led the way for Towson with 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting and redshirt junior Nakye Sanders, a transfer from Duquesne, added 13 points and six rebounds.

“I’ve been very proud about the amount of time they get in the gym on their own outside of it. It’s the best group we’ve had [when it comes] to that,” Skerry said. “And they want to be good. So, if that persists, we’ll get there. We did some good things in the opening night against Virginia, just not enough against a very good team.”

On Tuesday, Towson trailed by just nine at the half despite shooting 28.6 percent from the floor. In the second half, though, the Cavaliers found their rhythm, converting 59.3 percent of field goal attempts. The Tigers simply couldn’t keep up, finishing 13-for-41 from the floor (31.7 percent) and making just four 3-pointers on 14 attempts compared to Virginia’s 10 on 26 attempts. If there was a stat they practically neutralized, it’s rebounding, a department Skerry’s Tigers have traditionally excelled. Towson pulled down 32 boards to Virginia’s 35.

New point guard Tobias Howard, a junior college transfer from Georgia, led the scoring Tuesday with 10 points on 3-for-7 shooting in 31 minutes and back that up with 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting to go along with six assists in 26 minutes Sunday. Towson also made 52.3 percent of its shots against Wesley (34-for-65).

“I thought we played hard. I thought we were unselfish,” Skerry said. “With that said, we have a lot of work ahead of us, keeping the ball in front, some silly fouls, attention to detail, some spacing. We’re a work in progress.”

The Tigers were expected to retain well-rounded guard Zane Martin (19.8 points per game) and forward Justin Gorham (9.6 points and 6.6 rebounds per game), until both received releases from the university with intent to transfer. With Mike Morsell, Eddie Keith, Deshaun Morman and Brian Starr graduated, the departures of Martin and Gorham have left Towson with three players combining to average 9.7 points per game.

Through two games, playing time has been dispersed like this: Howard (57 minutes in two starts), guard Brian Fobbs (51 minutes in two starts), Sanders (48 minutes in two starts), forward Alex Thomas (48 minutes in two starts), guard Nicolas Timberlake (43 minutes in two starts), guard Allen Betrand (36 minutes off the bench), guard Jakigh Dottin (36 minutes), forward Solomon Uyaelunmo (29 minutes), forward Dennis Tunstall (24 minutes), Drayton (16 minutes) and forward Yagizhan Selcuk (12 minutes).

Howard (13.4 points and 4.0 assists per game in the Panhandle Conference), Fobbs (first-team NJCAA Division II All-American), Sanders (60.4 percent career shooting mark), Thomas (2.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 16 minutes per game last year at Towson) and Timberlake (24 points per game at Kimball Union) appear to be the starting lineup for the foreseeable future, but according to Skerry, “this is not a group that’s always going to have the same rotation right now. It’s going to be whoever earns it.”

After his ultra-efficient, 21-point performance on Sunday, Drayton is taking that statement to heart.

“He’s giving me something to think about,” said Skerry, who pushed Drayton to work on shooting off the catch and be stronger off the dribble.

“That’s all I worked on when I redshirted: to be shot-ready,” Drayton said. “It felt good. All my loved ones kept telling me to stay ready, that my time is coming.”

Towson will now head to Nassau in the Bahamas for a three-game stretch in as many days. The first is against Pepperdine on Friday; the second versus either Florida Atlantic or Georgia Southern on Saturday; and the third on Sunday is to be determined.

“This is a great experience for us,” Skerry said. “It’s going to be a great early-season measuring stick.”