It certainly wasn’t the way they wanted to go out.
A night that began with a spirited crowd of 3,000-plus roaring in appreciation of one of the most successful classes in William and Mary history ended with those same fans filtering out in stunned silence. David Schneider, Danny Sumner, Sean McCurdy and Steven Hess had an historic opportunity to end their home careers by all-but clinching the school’s first CAA tournament bye on senior night. Instead, the Tribe dropped a stunner, falling 83-77 Wednesday to an unheralded Towson squad.
“They just played better than we did,” Schneider said. “When we needed a big stop or a big shot, it didn’t fall for us.”
The loss was as uncharacteristic as it was surprising. After winning four-straight CAA games through crisp defensive intensity, the Tribe simply could not stop their visitors, allowing the Tigers to shoot 50 percent from the floor and knock down 9 of 20 three-point attempts. Suffering an early deficit, the College rallied to pull even several times throughout the game only to see Towson take back the momentum with key buckets.
“Each time they seemed to respond, sometimes with miraculous shots and sometimes with well-executed plays,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “We couldn’t stop them defensively, they just scored at will.”
The final stat line was equally puzzling. The Tribe hit 14 three-pointers, shot 39 percent from the floor and outrebounded Towson 44 to 39. Yet the Tiger guards repeatedly slashed to the bucket for layups or pulled up to drain jumpers from beyond the arc to stymie the College at every turn. Point guard Troy Franklin, all 5’11” of him, was a primary culprit, hitting 7 of 10 shots to finish with 27 points and seven assists.
As a result, in a schedule that included NCAA tournament-locks Maryland, Wake Forest and Richmond, Towson became the first squad to reach 80 points against the Tribe in any game short of three overtimes.
“Franklin controlled the ball game as much as any point guard I’ve seen in a long time,” Shaver said. “We played uncharacteristically tonight. We didn’t show the patience and poise we’ve shown all year long. It was a tough night for us.”
After a first half spent chasing a slim Tiger lead, the Tribe entered the intermission leading 35-34 on Schneider’s three with 23 seconds remaining. The College’s all-time leader in three-point attempts, the senior seemed determined to get his money’s worth in his final home game, hitting 17 treys over the course of a season-high 25 shots.
But as they did all night, Towson quickly regained the lead early in the second half, and eventually built an 11-point advantage at 57-46 with 10:20 to play.
The College roared back, unleashing a barrage of three-pointers to even the score at 59-apiece, before the Tigers regained control with a 15-5 run.
A pair of quick Schneider threes would bring the Tribe to within three points at 76-73 with 1:08 remaining. But Towson’s quick guards generated a pair of steals to ice the game and deny the College any attempt to pull even.
The loss dropped the Tribe into a tie for fourth place in the conference with Virginia Commonwealth. While a victory over the Tigers would have nearly clinched that position, the squad will enter the final weekend of CAA play needing a win over UNC-Wilmington to secure the bye.
“We need to play well,” Shaver said. “Two games in a row we really haven’t, and we’ve got to get back on track in that respect going into the tournament.”
For a box score, click here.