William and Mary is no stranger to stress-filled close games, and Wednesday’s game against Georgia State was no different.
Fortunately for the Tribe, what had become a familiar refrain turned into a conference win Wednesday night.
The College (9-20, 4-13) held off a strong rally from the Panthers to get a 69-65 victory in a game they largely controlled but nearly gave away multiple times.
Up by seven points with under twenty seconds left, the Tribe looked to have the game in the bag, but following a steal, the Panthers got a quick basket, intercepted the inbound pass, and hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to two points with 4.3 seconds.
Junior guard Quinn McDowell, who finished with 16 points, took the inbound pass, was quickly fouled, and hit two free throws to preserve the victory.
“We played a good game, but there were times where we were a little sloppy,” freshman guard Brandon Britt said. “We definitely didn’t finish the game great, but we won, so that’s all that matters.”
The Tribe led the entire game and started off quickly by building up a double-digit lead. Although they were outrebounded 21-16 in the first half, the College held Georgia State to 8 of 30 shooting from the field. After having built up an 11-point lead at halftime, the Panthers came out more effectively on the offensive end to start the second half.
Georgia State guard Javonte Maynor, who led the Panthers with 21 points, made three of his seven three-pointers early in the second half, reversing the momentum and cutting the College’s lead to two.
“There were really just mental errors,” senior center Marcus Kitts said. “Coach just said, ‘Be real sure with the ball.’”
The College roared back to build a 15-point lead with five minutes remaining, but the Panthers came back to silence Kaplan Arena in the game’s final minutes. The Tribe won the game at the foul line, shooting 80 percent in the second half and winning the game’s free throw battle 29 to four.
“We needed to get better tonight,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “We knew this would be a tough, physical CAA game, and this is when you gotta be at your best.”
The game was also senior night for Kitts, the class’ lone representative. After being recognized for his achievements before the game, Kitts finished his final home game at the College and received a standing ovation when he left the floor.
“He’s had a great career here. As a student, as an athlete, he’s done all the things we’ve asked of him,” Shaver said. “It’s fun to coach guys like Marcus because you don’t worry about things.”
Shaver added that Kitts was “a little too uptight” in the first half, but noted that he was an important presence on defense.
“At halftime, we just said ‘Marcus, come on, we all want this to be special for you, but slow down a little bit,’” Shaver said.
Noting that Britt played an “exceptional” game, Shaver said he was proud of the way the team responded during some of their rough patches.
“They came after hard us after the second half,” he said. “I think earlier in the year, this young team would have folded a little bit. We held firm in that situation.”