Considering how this season has gone for William and Mary (10-21), one might have lost all hope in the waning minutes of the second half. The No. 11 seeded College had once again played well against a superior opponent, No. 6 seeded James Madison, but the young Tribe showed familiar signs of collapse.
JMU forward Julius Wells sank a three pointer from the corner, while forward Devon Moore drove through the lane to put in a layup that gave JMU a 68-67 lead with 1 minute, 21 seconds remaining in the contest.
With 54.9 seconds remaining in the game, freshman guard Brandon Britt took the ball, drove into the lane, and drew a crucial foul. The freshman went to the line, sunk both of his free throws, and provided the Tribe with its first late game victory of the season, a 72-68 upending of James Madison in the first round of the CAA Tournament in Richmond, Va.
“I’m not sure I can be any prouder of a basketball team than I am now,” Head Coach Tony Shaver said. “It’s pretty amazing to watch, quite honestly.”
While Britt provided the finishing touches, the night belonged to junior forward Quinn McDowell, whose 35 points set a CAA tournament single game record for points. McDowell was nearly perfect from the field, going 10 for 12 from the floor, including 5 for 6 from beyond the arc. He was also stellar from the free throw line, netting 10 of his 11 attempts from the charity stripe.
“It’s one of the best performances I have ever seen,” Shaver said. “We rode his shoulders to a win tonight … I honestly didn’t realize he had 35. He hit big shot after big shot.”
The only bad news concerning McDowell was that he appeared to have tweaked his already weakened knee at the end of the contest, something to watch for as the College takes on No. 3 seeded Hofstra tonight at the Coliseum.
While McDowell shined for the Tribe, James Madison’s best player, Denzel Bowles struggled against the College. Bowles, who was mired in foul trouble all night, was neutralized on defense and was ineffective on offense against a series of double teams by the College. Bowles finished the night with just five points, two rebounds and four fouls.
“I think the foul trouble tonight hurt him,” Shaver said. “He’s a guy who can give you 40 points any given night. The hard thing about doubling him is that you leave other good players open … You’ve got to stop him to beat James Madison.”
While the College was able to silence the Dukes’ big men, Bowles and forward Rayshawn Goins, JMU’s guards and forwards kept the game competitive. Moore had 22 points and was 3 for 4 beyond the arc, and forward Andrey Semenov was particularly troublesome for the Tribe, as he provided 15 points on a 5 for 6 shooting performance.
Offensively, the Tribe exhibited a slightly different look than they have displayed so far this season. The Tribe played well inside, and McDowell and Britt both frequently looked to work the ball inside against JMU. Most interestingly, the College, known primarily as a three-point shooting team, attempted only 13 the entire game —7 of which went in.
The contest was close throughout, featured 14 lead changes and neither team led by more than six points. The two squads entered halftime tied at 34 points apiece, and two back-to-back three pointers by McDowell and Britt got the second half going on a positive note for the College.
“Everyone played great tonight,” McDowell said. “We came out with such passion, and I think we surprised them a little bit.”
Follow the Flat Hat’s live in-game blog as the Tribe takes on No. 3 seeded Hofstra at 8:30 tonight