After earning its first two victories of the season against Gardner-Webb and Mercer, William and Mary (2-3) looked flat and tired in its final game in the Legend’s Classic Subregional, falling by a 64-39 margin to Western Carolina (2-4) Sunday at Kaplan Arena.
“I’m disappointed with our play,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “We grinded it out and showed a lot of toughness in the past few days to get a few wins, but [Western Carolina] played well today. They are tough, strong, athletic and shot the ball exceptionally well today, which I think broke our spirit today, and that was something I was disappointed with.”
The Catamounts seized a convincing lead early and never relinquished it. The College opened the game by looking sluggish on both sides of the ball, and did not make a basket until nearly five minutes into the contest. By that point, Western Carolina already had a seven point lead, a lead which steadily continued to grow throughout the remainder of the first half.
A large part of the College’s offensive inefficiency was due to the staggering 19 turnovers it committed. The College displayed sloppy ball handling and poor offensive execution all game, as all 12 Tribe players who played in the game committed at least one turnover.
“We have to take care of the ball,” sophomore forward Kyle Gaillard said. “That is something we are going to have to work on in practice, taking care of the ball and making the right plays.”
The Tribe’s shooting performance was not much better, as the squad shot 37 percent from the field, and just 18.8 percent from behind the arc – a poor showing for an offense that relies heavily on the three-pointer.
Individually, Gaillard played with a spark in the second half, and was the Tribe’s leading scorer with 11 points. No other Tribe players managed to crack double digits, as junior forward Quinn McDowell and senior center Marcus Kitts – both usually reliable scorers – just managed six points apiece.
Defensively, the Tribe fell victim to a Western Carolina team that had just awoken from a scoring slump of its own. After falling to Mercer and Gardner-Webb earlier in the weekend, the Catamounts operated with amazing efficiency against the College, especially in the first half.
“There was some defensive breakdown, but [Western Carolina] shot the ball a lot better than they do statistically … they played outstanding basketball,” Shaver said.
The Tribe was outscored 36 to 17 in the first half, and although the squad looked more energized in the second half, the Catamounts never allowed the Tribe to close the gap. Almost every College basket in the second half received an answer from Western Carolina.
“With our style of play, its hard to get way down and come back,” Shaver said. “We don’t really have the speed to go press and trap people, so getting down is not a good formula for us.”
Western Carolina shot 43.9 percent from the field, and made 50 percent of its three-point attempts in the first half. Western Carolina guard Mike Williams consistently bewildered Tribe defenders throughout the contest by scoring 16 points on a 6 for 15 shooting night.
While the Catamounts managed to display reliable perimeter shooting, they also used their size advantage to out-muscle the College and dominate the paint.
Additionally, Western Carolina benefited heavily from the Tribe’s offensive ineptitude by converting 27 points off of Tribe turnovers. The College was also out-rebounded by a count of 34 to 26.
The Tribe must shake this loss off quickly and refocus before hosting Howard Wednesday, and with its first conference test of the season looming with a Saturday visit to Richmond to face CAA power Virginia Commonwealth.
“We definitely still believe in ourselves,” Gaillard said. “We are a good team, but we just have to keep getting better and stay together. We are going to face adversity, and our league is tough. We are going into conference play later this week, and we just have to get better.”