It had all slipped away – the remarkable 10-2 start, first place in the CAA, the top-20 RPI ranking, not to mention the ample talk of a storybook run to the College’s first NCAA tournament bid. William and Mary trailed Delaware by seven points with 32 seconds remaining in overtime of a crucial conference matchup, and was about to drop its second consecutive game to a CAA bottom-feeder.
In college basketball that’s an insurmountable margin, and a raucous crowd at the Bob Carpenter Center was on its feet celebrating yet another win over a Tribe team that hadn’t won there in 27 years.
“The game was over,” senior guard David Schneider said.
Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.
A remarkable closing sequence of events stunned everyone in attendance Wednesday night, delivering the Tribe (11-3, 3-1 CAA) to a 74-73 overtime victory over Delaware (5-10, 1-3 CAA) in what will go down as one of the most incredible wins in the history of the school.
“It’s remarkable,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “You know it can happen, it’s just something you’ve got to make happen.”
In overtime, the Tribe had lost control of a game that they led nearly the entire way. With those fateful 32 seconds remaining, Delaware guard Jawan Carter sank two free throws to give the Blue Hens a 72-65 lead.
Then it all started for the College. Schneider drove the Tribe down the floor and missed a three-pointer, but senior guard Sean McCurdy was able to grab the rebound. McCurdy found sophomore forward JohnMark Ludwick in the corner, who drilled a three-pointer that looked like it would be too little, much too late.
Shaver called a timeout to focus his team. Then, on the Delaware inbounds pass, Schneider struck. The senior cut through the air to tip the ball to McCurdy, who passed back to Schneider beyond the three-point arc. Schneider didn’t hesitate, and drilled a three to bring the Tribe to within a point and send the College’s bench airborne with renewed hope.
With 13 seconds remaining, the Tribe was forced to foul on the inbounds pass, sending Delaware guard Alphonso Dawkins to the free throw line for two shots. He hit one, giving the College 12 seconds to erase a two-point deficit.
Schneider only needed 9.2. Driving to his right just beyond the three-point line, he turned to find his defender had fallen and didn’t hesitate, launching a shot that swished the back of the net with 2.8 seconds left in the game and the Tribe now up 74-73.
“I’ve always dreamed of situations like that. I knew this was a time to score,” he said. “The last shot, I saw [the defender] fall down, and luckily it went in.”
Delaware tossed up one final attempt just before the final buzzer, and when it clanged harmlessly off the front iron the College was left to wildly celebrate an improbable victory in front of their bench.
“It’s huge,” Shaver said. “I think for this team to respond to a disappointing loss at home and get a win here for the first time since 1983 is a great tribute to our players. It’s an incredible thing.”
The victory capped an erratic evening for the College, one that saw them lead by as much as 10 points before trailing by seven deep in overtime. After Delaware jumped out to an early 6-2 advantage, the Tribe took an 11-9 lead with 13:40 remaining in the first half and stayed ahead for the next 25 minutes of play.
The College shot 55% from three-point range in the first half, maintaining a 33-27 lead at the halftime break.
That margin quickly swelled to nine points in the first few minutes of the second half, but Delaware began to chip away. With forwards senior Danny Sumner and sophomore Quinn McDowell having gone cold offensively, finishing with an uncustomary six and eight points respectably, the Tribe struggled to find consistent scoring and rebounding.
The Blue Hens racked up a 40-33 advantage on the boards, and used second-chance points to claw back into the game and eventually send it to overtime.
It was the play of Schneider, who tallied 26 points, four rebounds and four assists, that kept the College from falling behind. The senior also became the leading three-point shooter in Tribe history with a first half basket.
“He’s just as tough a competitor as I’ve ever coached,” Shaver said. “He scored a lot tonight, but his greatest contribution is his defense and the other stuff he does for our ballclub.”
With the game tied at 59-apiece after regulation, the game progressed to the decisive overtime period, with Schneider’s heroics supplying the College with a remarkable win.
“This was definitely the craziest win, I couldn’t believe we pulled it out,” junior center Marcus Kitts said. “It’s a huge win for our confidence and our team. This really could have taken the wind out of our sails, but we were able to pull it out.”