William and Mary 56, Gardner-Webb 55
William and Mary head men’s basketball coach Tony Shaver stared blankly into the distance of the Robbins Center media room following the College’s 24 point loss to Richmond Nov. 15 and lamented that the squad would need to see a significant improvement in its guards going forward. Junior Kendrix Brown, sophomore Matt Rum and freshman Julian Boatner had combined to shoot 1-for-13 from the floor against the Spiders, and looked dysfunctional and out of sync.
Fast forward two weeks later to the College’s first home game of the season, a Legend’s Classic Subregional contest against Gardner-Webb.
Brown had five steals, Boatner made a clutch layup with 2 minutes, 37 seconds left in the game, and Rum nailed a three pointer with 1:39 to help the College roar back from a five-point deficit to give the Tribe a stirring, 56-55 victory.
“It was a good win,” Shaver said. “We didn’t play great basketball tonight, but any time you don’t feel like you played your best, and still find a way to win, it’s a good feeling. Good teams find a way to do that. We really did a good job in the last two minutes in the ball game on both ends of the floor.”
The win gives the Tribe (1-3) its first victory of the season, while Gardener-Webb falls to 3-3 on the season. The game, which featured seven ties and 15 lead changes, was the first for both teams in the Legend’s Classic Subregional.
The College was led offensively by junior forward Quinn McDowell, who poured in 15 points on a 4 for 7 shooting night from the field. Despite an average performance from the field, McDowell was solid from the free-throw line, where he sank 7 of his 8 attempts.
“Quinn is a good player…one of the things he did by himself tonight that probably won’t be noticed is that he pretty much changed the rotation of our defense,” Shaver said. “It was a great, great performance by a kid who just had a look in his eye, and said, ‘We are going to win this thing’.”
Senior center Marcus Kitts had another quality outing for the College, adding 10 points, while Brown was 3 for 4 from the floor with 10 points.
As a team, the Tribe recorded one of its first solid shooting performance of the season. The squad made 54 percent of its shots, including 38 percent from three-point range. Additionally, the College made 62.5 percent of its free-throw attempts.
After being tied at 27 at halftime, Gardner-Webb seized control of the game during the second half. The Runnin’ Bulldogs sank 34.5 percent of their shots in the second half, and made 6 of 7 free throws. Despite Gardner-Webb’s second half success, the College never allowed the GWU lead to swell to more than five points.
With 2:37 remaining, Boatner blew by the GWU defense and cut the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ lead to two points. Following a Gardner-Webb turnover and timeout, Rum pulled up and hit the game-clinching three-pointer. From there on, the Runnin’ Bulldogs missed three scoring attempts, sealing the Tribe victory.
“It was a really well executed play that got Matt the open three, and he knocked it in. We also did a good job on the last two possessions switching out on the screens, and of course, Marcus Kitts blocked the last shot.”
The College will face Mercer Saturday and Western Carolina Sunday in its other two games in the tournament.