Down 17 with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left against Hofstra in the first round of the CAA Tournament, William and Mary lined up to watch Pride forward Anma Onyeuku shoot the front end of a one-and-one set of free throws.
She did exactly what the Tribe needed to retain any chance of launching a comeback and missed the first shot. But true to the first fifteen minutes of the second half, the College couldn’t capitalize. An offensive rebound, numerous uncontested passes, and about twenty seconds later, Hofstra guard Kate Loper extinguished all comeback hopes with a three-pointer from the left corner of the court, effectively ending one of the worst seasons in the history of the program.
The 89-67 defeat Thursday in Upper Marlboro, Md. was the result of a dismal second half of play by the College (3-26) — in which fifth-seeded Hofstra outscored the Tribe by 17 points — and came just eight days after the Tribe played Hofstra close for about 38 minutes, eventually falling by just seven in the regular season finale.
“This is tremendously disappointing because we came into this tournament with the hopes of actually doing very well,” head coach Debbie Taylor said. “It’s tremendously disappointing to lose by 20 to a team you just lost by  to.”
Despite wanting to go further in the conference tournament, the College will be happy to put the 2010-11 campaign behind it. The last time the team won fewer than four games in a season was long before any of the current players were born, when the College went 0-9 in the 1970-71 season. Coach Taylor called it a “crisis season.”
However painful the season was, the Tribe entered the tournament with renewed hope, and began the second half with a bit of momentum. After the College cut it to a 54-52 Hofstra lead with 14:41 left, the Pride turned on the jets, and the Tribe went ice cold. A 19-0 run from Hofstra turned what had been a close game into a blowout in a matter of five minutes.
“You have to expect in conference play and tournament play that you’re going to have to combat a run. And they’re a team of big runs because they have so much firepower,” Taylor said. “You have to weather the storm. From that point on we just stopped scoring and it kind of went downhill from there.”
When the Tribe turned to freshman center Kaitlyn Mathieu — the team’s third-leading scorer — for some of its own offensive firepower, Mathieu couldn’t deliver, missing jumpers on three-consecutive possessions. The freshman, who came into the game averaging 9.53 points per game, finished with just two.
“I don’t think she played her best game tonight, which is a shame because she’s had a great freshman year,” Taylor said. “She just really in the second half wasn’t playing as smart as she’s played and selecting her shots wisely. She rushed a lot.”
Without any punch from Mathieu, the team relied, as usual, on junior guard Taysha Pye, the team’s leading scorer and biggest all-around offensive threat. Pye had a solid night, scoring 15 points, but sophomore forward Emily Correal had the team’s best night, scoring 15 as well but also grabbing 10 rebounds.
“At a point we just got buried,” said Pye of Hofstra’s 19-0 run. “It’s hard to keep the energy up sometimes when they go on a run like that and they have the momentum. We didn’t do a very good job of bouncing back and that’s because we didn’t knock down shots.”
In the first half, the two sides battled it out but stayed close to each other, with the Tribe focusing its defensive effort on Pride forward Shante Evans, who dominated down low in the regular season finale, going for 36 points and 14 rebounds. But as the College concentrated on Evans, often doubling her on the block, it left open looks at the perimeter. Hofstra guard Nicole Capurso was there to take advantage, going on an incredible tear for 13 straight points from the 10:30 mark to 7:01 left in the first, putting Hofstra up by seven.
In a game of runs, though, the Tribe stormed back, scoring nine unanswered points to take a 31-29 lead with just over three minutes left in the half. The high-powered Hofstra offense remained in full force though, and a Pride three-pointer with two seconds left gave Hofstra a five-point advantage at the half.
The tale of the game could really be told by two statistical categories, shooting and rebounding. Hofstra outshot the Tribe by 13.5 percentage points, 19.6 in the second half. And the College got destroyed on the glass, getting outrebounded by 18 and giving up 18 offensive rebounds, which lead to as many second-chance points for the Pride. The usually-large advantage the defending team has when going for rebounds was hardly there for the Tribe, as the team pulled in only 22 defensive boards.
“They’re bigger than us, well Shante is,” Correal said. “We were face boxing and limited Shante, but it was the other ones who were going in and sweeping the rebounds.”
Taylor said a lot of Hofstra’s second-chances came from slow defensive rotation by the Tribe.
“We’d help and we wouldn’t help the helper and wouldn’t get their in time and that caused weak-side rebounds and easy lay-ups,” Taylor said. “Our defense was terrible in the second.”
The numbers didn’t disagree, as Hofstra shot 48.6 percent from the field in the last 20 minutes.
In the end, Taylor said she thought game didn’t represent the way the team had played down the stretch.
“I hope this isn’t a picture of what our season’s been like,” Taylor said. “I’d like to think we improved a lot over the season, I just don’t think we played particularly well this evening.”
While Taylor was disappointed with the team’s performance against Hofstra, Pye hoped to take the lessons learned during the disheartening 2010-11 campaign and attempt to correct them during the offseason.
“We’re all going to put in a lot of work,” Pye said. “[We will] get stronger and faster. We all feel the pain. We’ve been feeling it for 20 games so we’re really going to go hard this offseason.”