The worst part about William and Mary’s men’s basketball team is that it’s not bad.
If they were bad, the games would be much easier to watch. A loss would be easy to process. Hope has slaughtered us. Their promise, on both ends of the court, is infuriating.
In Saturday’s 85-69 loss to George Mason, it was almost not the team’s fault.
The offense finally clicked. It shot well from beyond the arc, drove the lanes, went to the line and senior center Marcus Kitts got some great looks in the paint.
Unfortunately, the defense was woefully overmatched by the strength and shooting ability of a more experienced George Mason squad.
Freshman guard Julian Boatner put it best after Wednesday’s last-minute loss to Delaware: Sometimes the Tribe shoots well, sometimes it defends well — rarely does it do both at the same time. It is just enough to inspire hope, but not enough to win.
“I love this basketball team. We’re not always perfect; we’re not always consistent; there’s a lot of youth out there, but … we’ve got to keep our spirits up. We can’t let this thing beat us. We’ve got to keep improving as a basketball team,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “Quite honestly, we’re just not quite good enough to win this game right now.”
That must be painful to admit. It is only slightly less painful for fans to watch.
The Tribe lost four games in eight days. Excluding the loss to George Mason, it fell by no more than four points in each game.
The loss to Delaware came after a questionable call when an inbounds pass was knocked out of bounds with 14.7 seconds left.
The Tribe had a chance to win the game in its final possession against Hofstra — but Britt was called for a double-dribble.
Despite a 22-point effort from junior forward Quinn McDowell against Northeastern, the Tribe was still three points short.
At Saturday’s post-game press conference, McDowell and sophomore guard Matt Rum leaned against the table, each putting his best face forward for the camera 10 feet away.
“The character of the guys in the locker room has really, really come through this year,” McDowell said. “To come back to work, every day after games, some of them are just demoralizing. I mean, you’re putting in the work but you’re not getting rewarded for it. But I know that we’re going to bounce back.”
They have, and they will. The only question is, will it be enough?
The team is better now than it was in November, when it struggled to put up 39 points against Western Carolina.
Since their Jan. 8 victory over Drexel, Boatner and Britt have evolved into true starters.
The CAA named Britt Conference Rookie of the Week after he averaged 20 points, five rebounds and three assists against Hofstra and Delaware.
Boatner is a spark plug in his own right. He sank an early three-pointer against GMU, giving the Tribe the momentum it needed to take an early lead.
At the same time, Britt and Boatner struggle defensively. Britt, in particular, has a tendency to lose the ball at critical moments — a combination of bad luck and inexperience.
The Tribe’s veteran shooters have not proved immune from the cold. Although they recovered against George Mason, they shot a combined 25.4 percent from beyond the arc against Hofstra, Northeastern and Delaware.
For a team that relies heavily on the three, 25.4 percent on 51 shots over three games is fatal.
What kills me is that they almost won anyway.
“I think it’s tough on a young team,” Shaver said. “We need to practice, and when you’re playing every other day, you can’t practice a lot. You’ve got to rest their legs. It’s a difficult time for us, but all we can do is grow from it.”