It took one and a half games before it happened.
Barely a minute into the second half of an eventual 73-49 loss at Richmond, William and Mary (0-2) head coach Tony Shaver had finally seen enough. Shaver called timeout and expressed his frustration at his team.
“I was just disappointed that we didn’t compete the first minute or two in the second half,” Shaver said. “One thing I’ve always prided myself on as a coach is that we compete hard, and we didn’t compete and weren’t focused the first minute of that half. So we challenged them pretty good.”
From that point, the tempo of the game changed. Junior guard Kendrix Brown and sophomore guard Matt Rum pushed the pace. Sophomore wing Kyle Gaillard finished an and-one at the rim. Senior center Marcus Kitts slammed home a couple of dunks in transition.
They may not have played better — Richmond still outscored the Tribe 38-29 in the second half — but at least the Tribe played harder.
“We had to come out there and compete,” Gaillard said. “That was the whole halftime speech about getting out there and trying to knock them on their heels. It’s really what we tried to do.”
In all honesty, the College could not have played worse than it did in the first half. The Tribe took an early 15-8 lead thanks to three three-pointers, plus a pair of jumpers from Kitts.
But Richmond went on a 27-5 run to end the half, forcing the College into long two-point jumpers, instead of the three-pointers and layups its Princeton-style offense usually produces.
“We really wanted to drive the ball,” Gaillard said. “That was one of our keys to the game, especially with their matchup zone. We wanted to get the ball to the rim to free up shots for our shooters.”
But the College could not get to the rim, mostly due to its ineffective guard play. Brown and Rum combined with freshman guard Julian Boatner to shoot 1-for-13 from the floor.
Combined with those three players’ 1-for-11 shooting performance versus Virginia last Friday, the Tribe’s main three backcourt players have combined to shoot 2-for-24 over the first two games.
“They’re good shooters,” Shaver said. “Matt Rum can really shoot the ball, Julian Boatner can really shoot the ball. I was really happy in the last 12 minutes or so of the game that Ken Brown got a little more assertive with the ball.”
After struggling the last two games in the half-court, Brown seemed to thrive in the open court in the second half. All four of the junior’s assists came in the second half as the Tribe ditched its staid half-court offense for a more up-tempo model.
Ultimately, it would not matter as Richmond had every answer for the Tribe’s attack. If the College pounded the ball down low to Kitts, the Spiders would foul the senior, who went 2-for-7 from the line (including two airballs). If the Tribe tried to run, Richmond would do it better, hitting six second-half three-pointers compared to the College’s zero.
By the end of the game, it was clear — after spending last season forcing other teams to question their approach, the Tribe is now the one looking for answers and waiting for everything to click.
“I think it’s just we have to get our stride,” Gaillard said. “We have a lot of potential as a team and we started 0-and-2 last year. We have to practice as a team, we just got Marcus back in practice, so we have to practice together. This week will be very important for that.”