Heading into its Jan. 20 matchup with Virginia Commonwealth, William and Mary had compiled a 14-3 record, a 5-1 mark in the CAA, and seemed to be on its way to the postseason for the first time since 1983. The College had garnered significant national attention, received votes in the national polls, and was projected to be a contender for a NCAA tournament bid, provided it could maintain its winning ways.
But beginning with a loss against the Rams, the College (15-7, 7-5 CAA) has now dropped four of its last five games, including a 61-42 blowout at the hands of conference rival Old Dominion (18-6, 10-2 CAA) in Norfolk Wednesday.
The two teams met for the second time in 12 days, and unlike the Tribe’s heartbreaking, last second 58-55 loss to ODU at Kaplan Arena, the Monarchs left no doubt this time around, physically dominating the College from start to finish.
“I would say that we simply got beat by an outstanding basketball team tonight,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “They’ve got it all in my opinion. They are great defensively, they have great size, great athleticism and they have great speed at the guard position. For thirty minutes, we battled, but we couldn’t stay with them down the stretch.”
The overarching theme of the College’s recent four game skid has been the loss of its strongest asset — its shooting ability. For the fifth game in a row, the Tribe posted an anemic shooting performance, managing to convert just 33.3 percent of its shots.
Most importantly, the College’s usually reliable three point shooting has suddenly dropped off, a fact that was punctuated by a 20 percent evening from behind the arc. While the squad did manage to earn open looks against an ODU defense rated among the top in the nation, it was unable to capitalize.
“I’m concerned [about the shooting], but I really thought that for thirty minutes, we got outstanding shots tonight,” Shaver said. “We missed a few layups. We’re going to shoot the three — people can say all night long, ‘Go inside,’ but we don’t match up inside with these guys. We have been one of the top five shooting teams all year, but we aren’t shooting it right now.”
Sophomore forward Quinn McDowell finished a futile 3 for 9 from the field, while senior forward Danny Sumner converted only two field goal attempts. Senior guard David Schneider continued his recent offensive struggles, going scoreless in the second half while hitting only 2 of 12 shots.
The College’s offensive struggles could be attributed in part to the size and athleticism of the Monarchs’ lineup. Old Dominion used its strength and height to outrebound the Tribe by a decisive 48-25 margin, including 23 offensive boards.
“ODU is big, they are physical, they are better than we are right now,” sophomore forward Quinn McDowell said. “We knew it was going to be physical, we just didn’t capitalize tonight. You just can’t give that team so many second opportunities.”
The Monarchs utilized their second chances and shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, further distancing themselves from a lackluster Tribe that managed to convert only 28 percent of its field goals after the break.
With the loss, the College dropped to sixth in the CAA standings. With six CAA games remaining in the regular season, the Tribe is now focused on relieving the team’s recent woes and regaining at least fourth place in the conference, which would guarantee them a first round bye in the upcoming CAA tournament.
“Coach said that we have kind of hit a plateau lately, and we have to find a way to get better,” McDowell said. “That’s going to be our emphasis in the last third of the season.”
Although the Tribe has already played both Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion twice, several challenging contests loom, including a home matchup against Northeastern and a road test against George Mason. The squad will have a chance to get back on track Saturday in Atlanta, where the Tribe will face Georgia State.
“We just have to rebound on Saturday, and hopefully just get a win at Georgia State, and go from there,” freshman guard Matt Rum said.
For a final box score, click here.