This one was over before it even got started.
Last place William and Mary lost its fifth straight game Thursday, falling to second-place UNC-Wilmington by a 72-48 margin.
The Tribe (2-20, 1-11), still recovering from the 82-59 drubbing it received when it visited Wilmington on Jan. 30, never made it a contest, opening the game by allowing the Seahawks (18-5, 10-2) to go on a 10-0 run in the first five minutes, and practically giving the game away with a jaw-dropping 31 turnovers.
After scoring 10 unanswered points to open the game, Wilmington never let the College climb back, growing its lead to as much as 21 in the first half. At the end of a first half in which the Tribe committed an abysmal 19 turnovers, the College headed into the break down 37-21. The Tribe’s lone bright spot was a buzzer-beating three-pointer on the run from junior guard Taysha Pye.
But Pye’s last-second heave did little to stop Wilmington’s momentum in the second, as the Seahawks — who finished with 14 assists — seemed determined to read the Tribe the “drive and dish” chapter of the Basketball 101 textbook. Whether it was their 5’2”, lightning-quick point guard or their two dominant post players doing the penetrating, Wilmington’s players were a step faster than their College counterparts every time.
“We [have to] get quicker,” freshman center Kaitlyn Mathieu said.
Mathieu led the team with 15 points off the bench.
Aside from Mathieu, the College was without a good scoring threat, due in part to the fact that the Tribe’s usual starting point guard, Pye was not in the starting lineup. Pye was absent during Wilmington’s 10-0 opening run. She came into the game averaging 18 points per game — the third-most in the CAA.
When asked about the decision not to start Pye, Head Coach Debbie Taylor chose her words carefully.
“It was a disciplinary matter,” Taylor said. “Taysha missed something she wasn’t supposed to.”
To the team’s credit, The Tribe never stopped hustling. Long after the game was out of reach, the College could be seen diving after loose balls, crashing the offensive boards, and harassing Wilmington on the defensive end. But the quicker, stronger, and better-shooting Seahawks were way too much.
After the first meeting between these two squads, Taylor was quick to identify the Tribe’s inability to guard the Seahawks’s post players as what derailed the team and vowed to bring a new game plan for controlling the paint into this meeting. But no matter what The College tried, there was no stopping the Seahawks’ dominance down low, as Wilmington — led by senior center Brittany Blackwell who went for 22 — scored 50 of its 72 points in the paint.
“They just got good position on us,” Mathieu said.
The College switched from a zone defense to man-to-man near the end of the first half, but nothing proved effective. This time, though Taylor wouldn’t blame the defense for the loss — even though Wilmington shot 56.6 percent from the floor — but pointed instead to the turnovers, off which Wilmington scored 35 points.
“We had 31 turnovers,” Taylor said. “We couldn’t score. I don’t think what defense we were in tonight really made the difference, we turned the ball over.”