Talk about a rebound.
William and Mary (7-16, 3-9 CAA) bounced back Wednesday night, beating James Madison 73-67 after dropping four straight against conference opponents.
“It’s real easy to get down when you’re losing and not getting the results you want,” junior forward Quinn McDowell said. “We talked before we came up here about doing the things we need to do to be successful for the guy next to you, and just having fun playing basketball. And I think it translated on the court tonight.”
McDowell led the Tribe with 23 points, eight rebounds and two assists on 7-for-10 shooting. He was a sizzling 4-of-6 from beyond the arc, including a clutch NBA-three on an inbounds pass to beat the shot clock in the second half.
The College caught fire early, snatching a 17-8 lead less than six minutes into the first half. JMU never truly recovered.
“We’ve done that a lot. We’ve played well early, but not finished some games,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “Our confidence might have to come before a win.”
Freshman guard Julian Boatner had confidence to spare. He hit a pair of early threes on his way to becoming the first player in Tribe history to shoot 5-for-5 from beyond the arc, finishing the night with 15 points, three assists and a pair of rebounds.
He also hit the shot of the game.
With 4 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in the second half, JMU had taken back the momentum with a fast 7-0 run to come within five of the Tribe’s lead. Boatner responded — with a quick three from the corner, stunning the JMU crowd.
Even with phenomenal shooting performances from McDowell and Boatner, the Tribe would be looking at a fifth-straight loss had it not been for its aggressive defense.
The Tribe out-rebounded the Dukes 36 to 28, erasing memories of when JMU out-rebounded the College by 20 boards earlier this season. Senior center Marcus Kitts swatted three blocks and picked up a steal, capping a nine-point, eight rebound effort.
Early interior pressure in the first half held JMU’s offense to 21 points on 28.1 percent shooting. Center Denzel Bowles, the Dukes’ main offensive threat, was scoreless until the 16:41 mark into the second half.
“We tried to push [Bowles] off the block, not let him catch it any deeper than he has to,” Shaver said. “We do double-down occasionally.”
In the second half, JMU’s shooters caught fire. Guards Humpty Hitchens and Julius Wells began sinking perimeter shots that had not fallen in the first half.
The Dukes’ new offensive threat forced the Tribe to open up the inside, giving Bowles the room he needed to score 11 points on the night with 11 rebounds — his 12th double-double of the season.
With its shooters coming to life, JMU’s defense also stepped up its efforts. JMU employed the press early, forcing 17 Tribe turnovers and allowing the Dukes to pick up an additional 25 points.
Despite a second-half JMU revival, the Tribe never lost its composure. The Dukes began fouling with three minutes remaining in the game, and although the College only hit 58.3 percent of its free throws, the Tribe hit the ones that mattered down the stretch.
“I thought it was a great display of mental toughness tonight,” Shaver said. “Every time they made a run at us, we answered.”