After notching its first victory of the season against Liberty a few days earlier, William and Mary entered its matchup against Howard Saturday seeking to keep the momentum alive in the form of another win.
The Tribe cut the Bison lead to just one point late in the second half, but the Bison recovered both times to pull away with the 67-58 victory. The loss, which drops the College to 1-6 overall, was the Tribe’s fourth straight road contest.
“We weren’t really pleased with our performance,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “We felt our execution could be at a different level than it really was and the two things that probably hurt us the most were some key turnovers and then their offensive rebounding.”
One of the prevalent themes of the young season has been the Tribe’s inability to win the rebounding battle.
The Bison bested the College on the boards 35-25, and almost half of Howard’s rebounds came off the offensive glass — a statistic which translated into 18 second-chance points.
The College showed defensive improvement from some of its other recent contests, but Howard was able to score a bevy of points down low. Howard scored a whopping 42 points in the paint compared to 24 for the College. The Bison shot 44 percent from the field and just 18 percent from beyond the arc.
“In the half court our five-on-five defense was good, very good, but we gave up 18 points in transition baskets off of steals and that was a big difference in the ball game,” Shaver said.
While the Tribe held its own defensively, the College struggled on offense. A traditionally strong three point shooting team, the Tribe went a disappointing four for 19 from downtown. The Tribe shot 39 percent from the field.
“It’s been a problem for the year,” Shaver said. “I felt back in the fall that this would probably the best shooting team I’ve coached at William and Mary, and we really haven’t shot well. I think there are reasons for that but I think we missed a lot of open shots in that game. To be good we need to make shots. We’ve known that for quite a while.”
Sophomore guard Brandon Britt led the way for the College with 15 points and three assists, while freshman forward Tom Schalk added 10 points in 22 minutes of playing time.
Schalk, along with freshman guard Marcus Thornton, who made his homecoming to the Washington D.C. area, have both made an impact in the early going. Thornton added eight points and an assist on the night.
“We’ve been forced to play them, quite honestly,” Shaver said. “I don’t want to talk about our injuries all day but it’s real simple — we’ve had five guys that missed the entire pre-season … Tom Schalk in particular has played very well. He’s earned continued playing time so he’s been very impressive in his play.”
One of the key reasons for the College’s offensive woes was the quiet performance of senior forward Quinn McDowell, the squad’s leading scorer. McDowell, who has been slowed by a knee injury, took just one shot from the floor in 33 minutes of action.
“There’s no question how people are defending him,” Shaver said. “They’re being very physical with him. The number one priority of people that play us is to take Quinn out of the offense, but honestly Quinn is not himself right now. Physically, he’s not full speed and he doesn’t quite have that explosiveness that I think he will in time. Like so many of our players, he missed almost the entire preseason and he’s just not himself right now.”
While the College awaits McDowell’s healthy return, the Tribe saw its tenuous injury situation improve slightly with the return of sophomore forward Tim Rusthoven Saturday. Rusthoven made an instant impact, adding 13 points and six rebounds in his first action this season.
“It is going to be a big boost for us,” Shaver said. “Tim has only practiced two hours, not two days, two hours, but Tim’s gonna be one of our best players and having him back out there is a big step in us moving in the right direction, no question about it … It’s obviously taken Quinn time to get back to where we know he can play and the same thing is going to be true with Tim. It’s a big step to get him back, but we can’t expect miracles from the guy right away.”
The Tribe returns home Wednesday for a clash with Atlantic-10 foe Richmond.