TRIBE 72, JMU 73
Apparently, lightning can strike the same place twice.
The College of William and Mary (12-15, 5-11 CAA) suffered its second heartbreaking loss in as many games, falling 73-72 to James Madison University (19-8, 12-4 CAA) Thursday at Kaplan Arena in a game that featured some confusing officiating.
Despite freshman guard Taysha Pye’s career-high 30 points, the Tribe collapsed in the game’s final minutes.
“It’s tough, when you play so well for most of the game, to see it slip away in the last seconds,” Pye said. “We just didn’t get it done when it mattered most.”
After a hard-fought, faced-paced 38 minutes, the Tribe led 71-65 with 1:25 remaining after junior forward Lauren Aadland sunk a pair of free throws. Neither Head Coach Debbie Taylor nor the Tribe players could have imagined the nightmare that transpired in the final seconds.
After JMU hit a trey to make it 71-68, senior guard Courtney Portell caught an inbounds pass down court and was intentionally fouled as she jumped for a breakaway layup. She sank one of her free throws before the College promptly turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions, squandering a huge opportunity.
After a pair of free throws, the Dukes tried to retake the lead on a three-pointer with 36 seconds left. JMU’s Courtney Hamner missed the three, but her teammates grabbed 5 offensive rebounds before Pye fouled Sarah Williams. Williams hit the first before missing her second shot. The rebound bounced off a Tribe player, giving JMU another possession with 7 seconds remaining.
“It took one rebound to end the game,” Taylor said. “We needed to push someone back or box one person out, and we couldn’t do it.”
The JMU inbounds pass found Dawn Evans, whose three-point attempt came up short. Undeterred, JMU’s Keisha Stokes gathered the rebound and sunk a layup as the buzzer expired. Following the basket, the arena was silent as the referees reviewed the final play for several minutes before calling the shot good and ending the game as a JMU win.
Throughout the game, both team’s coaches expressed exasperation with the officiating.
“We may be the best team in the nation with 15 losses,” Taylor said.
Despite the final minutes, it was not all bad for the Tribe, who pushed the pace on offense and scored many points in transition. Additionally, the College executed their box-and-one defense effectively, limiting JMU’s leading-scoring Evans — who ranks second in the nation in scoring with 24.3 points per game — to 19 points.
Pye had another staggering performance for a freshman, hitting 11 of 19 from the field and shooting 80 percent from the charity stripe en route to her 30-point outing. She received support from Portell and junior forward Tiffany Benson, who recorded 14 and 8 points, respectively. Benson also tallied 8 rebounds and 2 blocks before fouling out with 1:50 remaining.