Inches, mere inches, separated William and Mary from victory. In a game measured by leaps and bounds, it was two inches of orange paint underneath the feet of Quinn McDowell and JohnMark Ludwick which doomed the Tribe.
The College (0-3) lost 63-60 to No. 10 Syracuse Sunday at the Carrier Dome after coming back from a pair of 11 point deficits in the first half. After taking a brief four point lead with 3 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the second half, the Tribe squandered a couple of chances with a pair of turnovers.
The first came earlier in the half, when Ludwick knocked down a three-pointer from the left baseline with 5:08 remaining. But as soon as the shot fell, a referee’s whistle sounded. Ludwick had stepped out of bounds. The basket would not count.
“It was a huge play,” sophomore guard Matt Rum said. “I was sitting right there and I didn’t see him step out. Obviously we haven’t watched it on film yet, but that could have been a huge momentum swing.”
The second turnover came later. Trailing 62-60 with 16 seconds remaining in the half, Head Coach Shaver called a timeout to draw up a final play. The ball ended up in McDowell’s hands on the right baseline – the matchup the Tribe wanted – but the junior stepped on the sideline as he made his move to the basket.
Syracuse’s Kris Joseph would hit a free throw and the Tribe would not get off a final shot on the way to its third-straight loss, this one by mere inches.
“Obviously [McDowell] was clearly fouled on the drive,” Shaver said. “We did everything right on that last play. We had Quinn where we wanted him, where he could drive or pass it to [senior center Marcus] Kitts inside. I guess he just stepped out. That’s all I can say about it.”
If they hadn’t worn their traditional green and gold, most fans wouldn’t have recognized the Tribe squad that took the floor Sunday. Rum, he who had not made a field goal all year, finished with 8 points on 3-for-6 shooting. Rum’s backup, freshman guard Julian Boatner, added 11 points of his own after having only scored 2 points coming into the game.
Both McDowell and Kitts finished with 16 points, as Kitts finished two rebounds away from his second double-double of the season. Ludwick chipped in eight points of his own but, more importantly, led the team with nine rebounds.
“We really stressed playing with confidence,” Rum said. “For us guards, we were not playing with a lot of confidence through the first couple of games. So tonight, we came out and played with more confidence.”
Despite the effort, the Tribe returns home still searching for its first win on the season. It will take on Gardner-Webb, Mercer and Western Carolina, three teams of lesser caliber than the College’s first three opponents.
But until it gets that first win, Shaver and the College will be left thinking of what could have been.
“This should do nothing but help our confidence,” Shaver said. “We’re playing on the road, against the number ten team in the country, in front of 30,000 fans … This was a brutal three-game stretch, and we said we were not going to let it hurt us, but that it would make us better. And I think we were better today.”