William and Mary fell victim to superior size and athleticism Wednesday night as SEC foe Vanderbilt downed the College 64-50 in Nashville, Tenn. The Commodores slowly earned a victory through a defensive strategy that thoroughly frustrated the Tribe (7-5) into committing unforced errors.
“I’m disappointed in our play tonight,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “I don’t think we played up to our abilities tonight and I give Vanderbilt a lot of credit for that. I think their pressure and quickness bothered us a lot more than I anticipated.”
Vanderbilt shot well enough to keep the College at bay, but its defense completely stifled the Tribe’s offense, especially in the second half. Vanderbilt played a lot of man-to-man defense, and used its size to deter the College from penetrating inside.
As a result, the Tribe’s two primary ball-handlers, sophomore guard Marcus Thornton and junior guard Brandon Britt struggled mightily. Neither could effectively move to the basket, and both had trouble hanging on to the ball as the College committed 14 turnovers.
“Our guards had a very difficult time handling the ball due to their athleticism and quickness and we had a lot of turnovers,” Shaver said.
Britt was held scoreless for the first time this season and hoisted just three shots. Thornton led all scorers with 14 points, but turned the ball over five times.
While the Tribe had its fair share of offensive struggles, it was also plagued by foul trouble. Junior center Tim Rusthoven, a key cog of the Tribe’s offense, was in foul trouble nearly the entire game and was unable to make a big impact. When Rusthoven was in the game, he provided a powerful inside presence and challenged the Commodores under the basket, but he was limited to just 22 minutes.
“Foul trouble just destroyed us tonight,” Shaver said. “Tim Rusthoven and Kyle Gaillard were in trouble all night, and we couldn’t keep them on the floor. We couldn’t keep our normal rotation.”
Junior backup center Fred Heldring and freshman forward Sean Sheldon did an admirable job of filling in for Rusthoven, but neither could replicate his presence under the basket.
The Tribe will aim to regroup quickly as conference front-runner George Mason will visit Williamsburg Saturday for an important early CAA clash.