Following last week’s loss to lowly James Madison, William and Mary Head Coach Tony Shaver posited that in order to succeed in its upcoming games, the team would need to rediscover its balance. Throughout the course of the Tribe’s recent losing streak, the coach stressed to his team that the reason the behind one of the best starts in program history was their efficiency and the fact that multiple players contributed on both sides of the ball.
Saturday night against Georgia State, the Tribe (16-7, 8-5 CAA) rediscovered that winning formula by displaying clutch shooting and lock-down defense to erase an eight point halftime deficit and defeat a stubborn Panther team 59-56 in Atlanta.
“It was a great road win, no question about it,” Shaver said. “This is a resilient basketball team, I think that is the best way to describe them. They keep battling, keep fighting. [Georgia State] is a team that was 7-2 at home, and they just beat George Mason a couple of nights ago, so it’s a great, great win for us.”
For the 11th time this season, the College found itself engaged in a game that came down to the final possession. Junior forward Marcus Kitts and sophomore guard Quinn McDowell, among others, nailed several crucial shots over the course of the game’s final minute, allowing the Tribe to leave Atlanta with a valuable CAA victory. Kitts banked in a layup with 27 seconds remaining to give the College a one point lead, while McDowell nailed two free throws with nine seconds left to seal the win.
“We do it every day in practice, and I tried to just not put that much pressure on myself,” McDowell said. “I wanted to just go up there, and knock them down, and that made it easier on the defensive end because we could just go out there and play on the perimeter and not have to worry about them driving in.”
The College’s displayed dominating defense in the second half, especially on the game’s final possession. Sophomore guard Kendrix Brown and senior guard Sean McCurdy thwarted the Panthers’ baseline screen, causing Georgia State guard Marques Johnson’s game tying three-point attempt to fall short at the buzzer.
Although traditionally an offensive minded team, the Tribe relied heavily on its defense to overcome a seemingly consistent second half deficit of five to eight points. The Tribe held Georgia State to just 22 points in the second half, and managed to outrebound the Panthers 32-31.
“We went more man-to-man in the second half, we continued to mix up our defenses, but played more man than we have in some games, and we went with the small lineup,” Shaver said. “Some of our best players are guards, so there were quite a few minutes tonight in which we had we had a combination of either McCurdy, Schneider and Rum on the floor or McCurdy, Schneider and Brown on the floor.”
For the third consecutive outing, McDowell was the Tribe’s leading scorer, notching 17 points. Senior guard David Schneider rebounded from his recent shooting struggles to pour in 15 points while Kitts and McCurdy both added 10 points.
Although the Tribe managed to convert just 38 percent of its shots from the floor, the College made enough clutch shots at the end of the contest for the team to leave Atlanta with a renewed sense of confidence.
“We hit a tough stretch there, we weren’t playing our best basketball against some really good teams, and the ball just really wasn’t falling our way,” McCurdy said. “The coaches know that the ball is going to fall as long as we get good shots and continue to trust our offense.”
The College will open a two-game homestand this week, beginning with Delaware (6-17, 2-10 CAA) Wednesday night, followed by Northeastern (16-8, 11-2 CAA) Saturday. With six games remaining before the conference tournament, the Tribe will need to continue to regain its confidence and reassert its standing in the ultra-competitive CAA.
“It’s amazing. If back in October, you asked anybody if William and Mary basketball could have 16 wins with six [games] still left to play, not many people would have believed that,” Shaver said. “So it’s a great feeling for these guys, and we just want to keep playing well and see if we can’t finish strong.”
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