Denver vs Towson: Win the possession battle, win the game

Photo courtesy of DU Lacrosse

For just the fifth time in the history of the No. 2 University of Denver and No. 10 Towson University lacrosse programs and the first time since 2009, the Pioneers and Tigers will play each other. On Sunday at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium in Denver, there is a trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals on the line.

When looking at the “Tale of the Tape” for this matchup, there is one thing that sticks out: the possession stats, specifically turnovers and turnovers caused. Towson’s incredibly low number of turnovers and the high turnovers caused are striking. When paired with DU’s recent and surprising possession problems, the matchup with the Tigers gets even more interesting.

Over the past few weeks, Denver has reduced the number of turnovers committed, but in the second half against Marquette and in the loss to Penn State, DU had trouble taking care of the ball. Against the Nittany Lions in Texas, DU committed 12 turnovers, including six in the fourth quarter en route to the Pios’ first loss of the season. Then against Marquette last weekend in the BIG EAST Championship game, DU was better, but still turned the ball over nine times. On DU’s last possession, with a chance to tie the game, DU turned it over to Marquette with just a few seconds left.

Towson may not have as much talent as Denver does on their roster, but if DU can’t take care of the ball throughout the day, that talent discrepancy won’t matter. Towson is more than capable of taking advantage of DU’s mistakes and capitalizing. The Tigers’ offensive stats aren’t astounding, but they’re solid enough to worry a potentially mistake-prone Pioneers squad.

That said, the Pioneers are and should be heavily favored. When Denver is playing up to their potential, no team in the country can even stay with them. No, not even Maryland. When Trevor Baptiste is winning faceoffs, Connor Cannizzaro is scoring goals, and Zach Miller is making the opposing defense look foolish, no team can stop them.

DU has shown flashes of this throughout the year. The 8 goal run against Providence in the BIG EAST Semifinal and the 6-0 third quarter against Marquette in the final regular season game are just two examples of DU’s dominance when they’re playing good lacrosse. During those stretches, the Pioneers leave all who are watching dumbfounded with what they’re able to do.

Marquette head coach Joe Amplo said it best at halftime of the BIG EAST Championship when DU had a commanding 7-3 lead:

Listen, come Sunday evening, Denver should be getting themselves prepared for a trip to Columbus, Ohio to face either Duke or Loyola in the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament. Denver is the better team and they absolutely earned the #2 seed the committee granted them.

However, don’t let the chalk inflate your already Boone-sized lacrosse ego. There are a few concerning trends that have plagued the Pioneers over the past few weeks and if Towson can find a way to win faceoffs capitalize, DU could be in for an incredible dogfight on Sunday afternoon.

Time will tell whether the Pioneers are up to the task of minimizing mistakes and imposing their will on the Tigers. You can count on one thing, though: Bill Tierney will have his Pioneers ready to play tournament lacrosse on Sunday afternoon.

Faceoff for DU vs Towson is set for 1:00 PM Sunday at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. Tickets for Sunday’s showdown have sold out, but the game is being televised nationally on ESPNU.