As William and Mary entered Hampton University Convocation Center Saturday—a venue affectionately known as “the big Pirate ship”—it became abundantly clear that the College’s normally swashbuckling Princeton offense hasn’t yet found its midseason form.
As such, Hampton used a physical, decisive style of play to hand the Tribe a 73-58 loss in Hampton, its second in as many games. The Pirates dominated the College on the glass, grabbing 41 rebounds, including 16 on the offensive end.
“They are definitely big and athletic and strong and hit the glass hard,” senior forward Quinn McDowell said.” And when they weren’t hitting threes, they would get the rebound. You aren’t going to win when you let them do that.”
Indeed, the Tribe never really found a rhythm on either side of ball. The Tribe offense appeared out of sync at times, especially in the early going. Hampton slowed the College considerably, and Tribe shooters never established themselves from beyond the arc.
“We shot the ball very poorly tonight, and maybe that’s their defense,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “Their pressure took us out of some things we like to do.”
The College finished with a 40 percent mark from the field, and 33.3 from downtown. Interestingly, the Tribe, a perimeter shooting team, attempted only 18 threes the entire game, compared to 27 by the Pirates.
McDowell, who led the College with 18 points, was visibly slowed by a lingering knee injury.
“Quinn gives you his heart and soul, but as you could see tonight, his legs just weren’t under him,” Shaver said “He’s only been back out here for about 10 days. He played very well against St. John’s, but really wasn’t himself tonight. He’s a little gassed, to be honest.”
The rest of the Tribe offensive attack appeared slightly subdued as well. Sophomore guard Brandon Britt, a CAA All-Rookie Team selection last season, went 0 for 8 from the field, and added just two points.
Hampton, meanwhile, was very efficient offensively. Lead by guard Darrion Pellum, the Pirates used size to their advantage, powering past the College’s lanky frontcourt. Pellum, a preseason All-MEAC first team selection, provided 20 points and five rebounds, while transfer forward David Bruce bullied the Tribe inside, going 5 for 10 with 15 points.
Following a disappointing second half showing against St. John’s in its season opener, William and Mary headed down to Hampton seeking an easier non-conference foe than they faced in Queens. Shaver believes the Pirates may have been tougher.
“I really think they are better than St. John’s,” Shaver said. “I told that people coming here, and I didn’t really think people believed me. They have five seniors, they are a very mature, experienced, basketball team.”
While the Tribe didn’t obtain the desired result, there were a few flashes of brilliance Saturday, particularly in the play of its younger core.
Sophomore forward Fred Heldring, who rarely played last season, had an admirable game against the Pirates, adding 10 points and six rebounds. Heldring has been called into action in the midst of injuries to many of his fellow forwards: sophomore Tim Rusthoven, senior JohnMark Ludwick and junior Kyle Gaillard.
In addition to Heldring, freshman guard Marcus Throrton, a highly touted prospect from Maryland, added 13 points and a bit of firepower in his second game for the Tribe.
“Marcus is beginning to come around,” Shaver said. “He missed almost 10 days with an injury. Today, he had a little bit of his explosiveness back and it was encouraging to come back … He doesn’t have his spring right now, but he’s going to be a very good player.”
While the College has fallen short by 15 points in both of his first two games, Tribe players and coaches believe that the squad will steadily improve as the young talent matures and its injured stars return.
“I would be remiss to say that injuries don’t play a part in our slow start, but you have to deal with what you have, and we have to get better,” McDowell said. “The good thing about college basketball is that you get another chance, usually pretty quickly, and we play again on Monday, so hopefully we will have a better performance then.”