William and Mary ended its five-game losing streak Thursday, knocking off Virginia Commonwealth in Richmond, 66-63.
The win keeps the Tribe (10-15, 3-11 CAA) tied for the 10th spot in the conference with Northeastern, which beat Georgia State Thursday.
It was anybody’s ball game midway through the second half with things knotted at 45. But junior center Jaclyn McKenna’s three-pointer gave the College a 50-47 lead with 9 minutes, 1 second to go. Despite being tested down the stretch, the Tribe wouldn’t relinquish the advantage.
Junior guard Taylor Hilton later capped off an 8-2 Tribe run with a pair of free throws to give the College a seven point lead with just over five minutes to go. But VCU (14-11, 7-7 CAA) wouldn’t go away, responding immediately with a 6-0 run of its own. The Rams couldn’t close the gap, and McKenna hit a layup with 1:04 left that put the Tribe up 62-57. Still, the Rams fought back, as VCU’s Courtney Hurt hit a free throw on the ensuing Rams possession. When she missed the second, VCU came up with the offensive board and Aprill McRae put it back up, drawing a foul from McKenna. McRae hit both of her chances from the stripe to cut the College’s lead back down to two.
But the College wouldn’t buckle when the Rams sent them to the line, and senior guard Katherine DeHenzel knocked down a pair of free throws to give the Tribe an insurmountable four-point lead with 25 ticks left. DeHenzel would finish four and tied senior guard Taysha Pye for the team-high with 15 points.
It was not the best offensive night for the College, which shot just 40.3 percent from the floor. But the Tribe protected the ball well, committing just nine turnovers, and played stingy defense in the second half, holding VCU to 37.1 percent from the floor over the final 20 minutes and forcing 19 turnovers on the night.
After scoring the first basket of the game, the Tribe actually trailed for most of the first, and with 9:13 left in the first, a layup from McRae opened up a 19-11 lead for the Rams. The College responded with a 9-1 run to tie it at 20 before VCU took a 31-29 lead into the half. In the first period, the Tribe was outshot 48.3 to 40.6 percent, but bore down on the defensive end in the second period.
Pye — making just her fifth start of the season despite entering the night in a tie for the second-highest points per game average on the team — finished with 15 points on 5 of 18 shooting, seven rebounds and four steals. Hilton also came off the bench to make a big contribution, scoring 10 on 4 of 5 shooting and pulling down four boards in just 17 minutes.
The win could have seeding implications for the conference tournament, which starts March 8. With four conference games to go, the Tribe is fighting for the No. 10 seed with Northeastern. Current No. 9 seed Old Dominion will be almost impossible to catch as the Monarchs have a three-game lead on the College.
The Tribe will return to action when it hosts UNC-Wilmington Sunday.