University of Virginia 76, William and Mary 52
For one half of its season opener against Virginia, William and Mary looked like it was going to pick up right where it left off at the end of last season. The squad downed two top-notch ACC opponents last season in Maryland and Wake Forest, played North Carolina tough in the National Invitation Tournament, and appeared poised to knock off the Cavaliers.
Despite being down by just one point at halftime, the College allowed Virginia to dominate the second half on both sides of the ball and turn a close game into a 76-52 blowout loss for the Tribe.
“We took a whoopin’ in that second half, that’s for sure,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “I thought that the first half was one of the keys to the game. Our defense was outstanding, our ability to battle on the boards was outstanding. I thought our offensive execution was very good, we just missed the shots, and you have to make shots to be a good basketball team.”
The College struggled offensively, especially in the second half. The squad shot 37.5 percent from the field, making just 36.4 percent of its shots in the second half. The Tribe appeared hurried and hesitant shooting the ball, especially from behind the arc, an area the team excelled last season. The College managed to convert just 26.9 of its shots from downtown.
“I really thought that their runs came off of poor execution from our offense,” Shaver said. “They are good defensively, and are well coached on the defensive end. We took some bad shots, we took some quick shots. We had seven turnovers in the second half and they had 16 points off of fast break, which is really what blew the game open.”
In addition to poor ball handling, the College’s shooters could simply not convert on their attempts, and no Tribe player displayed a definitive hot hand. Junior forward Quinn McDowell was the College’s leading scorer with 16 points, but went for 4 for 11 from the floor. Sophomore forward Kyle Gaillard and junior forward JohnMark Ludwick also missed several open looks, but contributed 10 and 13 points, respectively.
Junior guard Kendrix Brown, whom many believed would be one of the Tribe’s key players this season, was slowed by an ankle injury and managed just two points on a 1 for 4 shooting night.
“We didn’t have the balance tonight that we need as a ballclub,” Shaver said. “Our guard play was not good tonight, and we have to be balanced to be good, and we didn’t have that balance, but they are good players. Matt Rum is a going to be a good player, Ken Brown, when he is healthy, is a very good player.”
Meanwhile, it was a story of two halves for the College defensively. The Tribe held Virginia to 28 points in the first half, and the Cavaliers shot 39.3 percent from the field. In the second half, however, the undersized Tribe was dominated by Virginia, and allowed 48 points in the second period. The Cavaliers made a whopping 70 percent of their three-point attempts in the second half as well.
The College’s limited defensive presence was hindered by the fact that its starting center, Marcus Kitts, played just 16 minutes due to illness and foul trouble.
“First off, it was great to see Marcus on the floor, he just got cleared yesterday,” Shaver said. “He’s a senior, and we thought he deserved the opportunity. He obviously got very fatigued, and some of the fouls were fatigue fouls, but he is very important to our ballclub.”
Overall, Shaver and his staff were disappointed with the loss but optimistic that his young team will come around over the course of the season.
“We need to practice together, and we have not had that luxury this season,” Shaver said. “We have had a lot of our key players out, so we will be better in January and February than we are now. Our freshmen played like freshmen tonight, but they will be fine … We are putting these guys in a pretty tough environment to start the season, to come in here, and Richmond, and Syracuse right after that. We are throwing these guys’ feet to the fire right now. We have to do a good job as a staff to keep their confidence up, and we really have to keep our head above water right now.”