William and Mary defeated Georgia State 79-73 Tuesday to improve its record to 5-11 in the Colonial Athletic Association with two games remaining before the conference tournament.
With 43 seconds left on the clock, senior guard Taylor Hilton buried a deep three to give the Tribe a 4-point advantage. The next possession saw the College’s defense foil Georgia State’s comeback plans, forcing the Panthers to commit a sloppy turnover. On the following inbound pass, senior forward Jaclyn McKenna threw the ball cross-court into the hands of senior guard Janine Aldridge, who calmly converted an uncontested lay-up while the Panthers could only look on in dejection.
“Taylor played well today,” head coach Debbie Taylor said. “I thought she played one of her better games this evening, and obviously, she hit the big shot at the end.”
Hilton’s decisive three-pointer reflected the impact of the Tribe’s stellar second half shooting. In contrast to Georgia State’s paltry 1 of 6 shots made from beyond the arc, the College made half of its ten 3-point attempts in the second half. The Tribe’s accurate shooting bailed out poor interior defense and rebounding.
Led by center Cody Paulk, the Panthers dominated the Tribe down-low in the paint. Paulk, who notched a double-double, was one of the key reasons why the Panthers had a 46-28 point advantage in the paint. The College’s porous 2-3 defense was repeatedly exposed by slashing Georgia State forwards who found easy openings for scores. The Tribe’s 19 total rebounds only exceeded the number of Georgia State offensive rebounds by four.
Hot shooting, however, was the panacea for all of the Tribe’s shortcomings on the day.
The College established a 38-30 lead through the first half largely because it shot a scorching 51 percent from the field. After some early turnover squabbles, the Tribe offense, marshaled by sophomore guard Anna Kestler, played fast and took advantage of Georgia State’s defensive lapses to find open shooters. Proving that almost everyone on the team can hit difficult shots, McKenna, a power forward, sank two threes to add to her 10-point tally in the first frame.
The College’s second half performance showcased a resurgent Aldridge. After two rough away games against Old Dominion and Drexel, Aldridge continued to struggle through the first quarter of Tuesday’s game, only making 3 of 10 field goal attempts. But that all changed in the second, as Aldridge rattled off 12 points through the frame, giving the College a much-needed boost in such a tight game.
“Janine had a rough spot for a while; we almost took her out, then she hit two back-to-back threes,” Taylor said.
In the 19 minutes from the start of the second half to Hilton’s decisive three-pointer, both teams seemed to be trading the lead every possession. Neither team defended very well, as evidenced by the final score. Georgia State’s defenders gave the Tribe shooters enough room to knock down shots. Taylor kept Correal on the bench for most of the final 10 minutes, choosing to go with a smaller lineup so as to be more dangerous offensively. But this led to gaping holes and easy scores on the defensive end.
After the game, Taylor talked about what she wants to see out of her seniors as they wrap up their collegiate careers.
“They have one more game in this arena, and I want nothing more than for them to show to all the people who have supported them for four and five years what they can accomplish,” she said.
The College travels to Towson Saturday as it gears up for the conference tournament, starting March 14in Upper Marlboro, Md.