Jerelle Benimon had 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists and teammate Bilal Dixon added 14 points as Towson held off a charge by host UNC-Wilmington for a 79-74 victory before 3,331 fans on Wednesday in the Colonial Athletic Association opener for both teams.
Towson (6-8), which has never had a winning CAA record since joining the league in 2001, was led by Mike Burwell's 13 points. Marcus Damas added 11 points for the Tigers, who made just six turnovers and had 46 points in the paint.
Freshman guard Craig Ponder had a game-high 23 points for UNC-Wilmington (5-8) while Keith Rendleman added 14 points and 21 rebounds. Marcus Graham had 18 points for the hosts.
Towson, which led 44-28 at halftime, led 59-44 with 11:03 left in the game but UNC-Wilmington had an 8-2 run that cut the lead to 61-52. A 7-0 run by the Seahawks cut the lead to 69-61 with 2:53 to go and a 3-pointer by Tyree Graham of the Seahawks trimmed the margin to 71-65 with 2:24 to play. Another trey by Graham made it 72-68 with 59 seconds to go.
A free throw with 34 seconds left by Towson's Jerome Hairston made it 73-68. Burwell added a pair of free throws with 24 seconds left that iced the game for Towson.
Towson was coming off an overtime win Saturday at Oregon State in the first win for the Tigers over a team from a BCS conference since 1995. Benimon had 20 points and 21 rebounds at Oregon State to earn CAA player of the week honors.
NOTES: Towson plays at Drexel, the pre-season favorite in the CAA, on Saturday. ... The Tigers were 1-31 overall last season but are much improved this season with three Big East transfers: Benimon (Georgetown), Dixon (Providence) and Burwell (South Florida). ... UNC-Wilmington plays at Northeastern on Saturday.