It might be hard to believe based on the gory final score, but William and Mary (3-12, 0-3 CAA) was tied with Drexel (7-8, 2-0 CAA) at one point in the first half.
That was before the floodgates opened, before the Tribe lost 89-49.
The fact that the game was once within reach served to make the College’s fifth straight loss all the more demoralizing. After tying the game seconds into the second half, the Tribe was outscored 54 to 14 thereafter.
While the first half displayed the team’s potential, the second left the Tribe scrambling for answers.
“I thought we came out with the effort and energy we need to compete with a team like Drexel,” head coach Ed Swanson said. “In the second half, I just think that we have to toughen up, not only mentally but also physically. I think when things start going in the wrong direction, we don’t have that player or that talent to make a play on either side of the floor to keep us in.”
Senior center Kaitlyn Mathieu led the way early, scoring nine of the College’s first 20 points. After trailing for the entirety of the game, the Tribe went on a 14-6 run to take a three-point lead midway through the first half. However, the advantage was short-lived as the Dragons followed the Tribe’s run with an 11-0 run of their own.
Down 35-27 with a minute left in the first, junior forward Kyla Kerstetter posted five straight points to end the half, including an athletic buzzer-beating layup.
Kerstetter picked up where she left off after halftime, nailing a three to tie the game at 35. With the score knotted-up and the Tribe’s top scorer finding her groove, the game seemed to be the Tribe’s for the taking. Then, it all fell apart.
Drexel went on a furious 20-3 run right after Kerstetter’s three. Weak interior defense from the Tribe coupled with strong perimeter shooting from the Dragons helped create a disadvantage that proved difficult to recover from. Drexel exploited gaping holes in the Tribe’s 2-3 zone defense, giving the Dragons open shots virtually every time down the court.
“I think it was a combination of a lot of things on the defensive end, starting with fundamentals, lack of focus, and our effort level was affected,” Swanson said.
The Tribe’s second-half implosion reflected not just easy offensive chances for Drexel, but a failure to score on the other end.
It took the Tribe 12 minutes to score 10 points; meanwhile, the Dragons’ offensive explosion never slowed. Mathieu scored just two points in the second half after posting 11 in the first. Kerstetter scored just three points after opening the half with her three-pointer.
“In the first half, we showed we can do it,” Mathieu said. “We need to be able to keep that endurance and focus all game.”
After posting a 50 percent shooting percentage in the first half, the Tribe shot just 12 percent in the second half. The Tribe’s guards’ scoring output was limited throughout the game.
Freshman guard Marlena Tremba led the group with six points, followed by five points from junior guard Jazmen Boone.
“Once we get down on defense, we kind of panic on offense,” Kerstetter said. “We think we have to get it all back and that rushes us, which leads to misses.”
Swanson’s team is still looking for its first Colonial Athletic Association victory, losing its first three by a combined 94 points.
However, the Tribe has scattered impressive performances throughout its season, such as its 66-56 win over Saint Louis Dec. 28.
The College will seek its first CAA win on the road against North Carolina-Wilmington next Thursday at 7 p.m.