Men’s Basketball: The Long and Winding Road
William and Mary (10-7, 2-2 CAA) has had a difficult relationship with snow storms this season.
Wednesday’s 13-hour bus and plane trip prefaced a 77-60 meltdown at Hofstra (7-12, 3-1 CAA) that dropped the Tribe to 4-5 on the road, compared with 6-2 at home.
If the transportation issues had any effect on the players’ fitness levels, it wasn’t readily noticeable until the second half when the Pride went on a 17-0 scoring streak that lasted six-and-a-half minutes.
One game after the Tribe shot 56.9 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the three-point line en route to a 78-56 victory over James Madison, Hofstra turned the tables on the Tribe.
The Pride shot 47 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the three-point line, while the College slumped to 32 percent from the field.
Junior guard Marcus Thornton led the team with 17 points but shot 5-14 from the field.
Meanwhile, on the other side, the Pride was led by center Stephen Nwaukoni and guard Dion Nesmith, both of whom racked up double-doubles.
Following the Tribe’s victory over JMU last Saturday, head coach Tony Shaver was especially proud of his team’s rebounding output. But the Tribe couldn’t carry over the output to Wednesday’s contest.
Senior center Tim Rusthoven jostled with Nwaukoni all night and finished with eight rebounds and 13 points. Nwaukoni racked up 14 rebounds as part of Hofstra’s 41-31 dominance on the boards.
Shaver bemoaned his team’s lack of defensive intensity as compared to its effort Saturday, while also commenting on the Tribe’s shooting struggles.
“Their defense was better than our defense tonight and more intense than our defense tonight,” Shaver told the Daily Press. “And they made shots that we didn’t. Sometimes it’s a simple game.”
The Tribe went back and forth with the Pride through the first half, going into halftime down by just one point. A strong three-point percentage in the first half kept the Tribe afloat as it shot 6-13 from beyond the arc in the first 20 minutes.
However, the Tribe’s shooting dipped precipitously in the second half, making just two of 12 three-point shots.
Three minutes into the second half, with the Pride up by three, the Tribe’s scorers fell silent, while the Pride’s shots fell in droves. The Tribe would score only one field goal in the span of 19 possessions.
After the drought, the Tribe tried to claw back into contention but couldn’t make up for the lost time. The closest the Tribe came was a 10-point deficit with just over two minutes left.
Any chance the Tribe had of forcing overtime was sapped when the Pride converted 10 straight free throws in the last two minutes.
Shaver acknowledged that the long, tiresome trip to Hempstead, N.Y. may have affected his team’s performance Wednesday but did not believe it was a legitimate excuse.
“We had an opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Shaver said. “You’ve just got to get through the travel and move forward.”
The Tribe has exhibited wide fluctuations in performance in recent games. Two dominant home wins against Drexel and James Madison have been balanced with two difficult road losses to Delaware and Hofstra.
Though the Tribe has shown its potential in spurts, Shaver expects more from his team.
“I think great teams play at a high level on a consistent basis,” Shaver said. “And we’ve been really good on a fairly consistent basis. But not every day.”
The Tribe will try to improve its road record Saturday at Drexel, who it defeated 85-73 Jan. 8. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.