Facing a 16-point halftime deficit shouldn’t have fazed William and Mary Wednesday night. Just a month earlier, trailing nine, the College had rallied to beat Charleston.
While the advantage may not have affected the Tribe (16-10, 8-5 CAA), it emboldened the Cougars. Charleston (14-14, 6-7 CAA) hit 20 of its final 26 shots en-route to blowing past the Tribe, 87-54.
Junior guard Marcus Thornton continued his recent struggles from the field, finishing with nine points on 3 of 12 shooting in 35 minutes. Charleston’s Nori Johnson drew the defensive assignment on Thornton and focused on upsetting Thornton’s shooting rhythm. Before Sunday’s loss to Towson, Thornton had scored 10 or more points in 53 of his past 54 games. He has now failed to do so in two of his last three games.
“I think we made some really good adjustments from the first game to the second game. Obviously, he is one of the hardest to guard in our league,” Johnson told CofCSports.com. “He can score it using those ball screens and in their Princeton offense. I just wanted to frustrate him a little bit, stay attached to him, and go around the ball screens just to make sure he didn’t get comfortable enough to get in a good rhythm.”
Johnson ended with 16 points, one of four players in double figures for the Cougars. With Thornton misfiring, the Tribe couldn’t find an answer. All told, the Tribe shot 37.3 percent from the field, including 12.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Senior center Tim Rusthoven opened the game with a basket for the Tribe’s only lead of the contest. Despite a 7-0 run midway through the first period, fueled by Thornton and senior guard Brandon Britt, the Cougars used a 15-3 run to build a 16-point halftime advantage.
Charleston’s back-to-back three-pointers to close out the opening period foreshadowed the remaining 20 minutes. While shooting 64.2 percent from the field and 63.6 percent from three, the Cougars hit eight three-pointers in the second half alone.
“It was just a complete performance for us. We shot the ball well tonight,” Charleston head coach Doug Wojcik told CofCSports.com. “We shot it well from two and we shot it well from three.”
Offensively, the Tribe had just two players in double figures. Rusthoven and freshman guard Omar Prewitt each finished with 13 and converted more than half of their shots.
Junior forward Sean Sheldon, seeing more minutes of late, tied his career-best with nine points without a miss from the field in 17 minutes of action. Britt finished with five points as senior forward Kyle Gaillard and freshman guard Daniel Dixon rounded out the College’s scoring.
Alongside a season-low 2-of-16 effort from three-point range, the Tribe failed to outscore Charleston’s bench. Entering Wednesday night, the Tribe had outscored opposing benches by 11.6 points per game.
With Britt resuming his starting role and senior guard Julian Boatner relegated to the bench, overall bench scoring has suffered. Boatner didn’t register a shot in a team-low nine minutes.
Three conference games remain before the Colonial Athletic Association’s Men’s Basketball Championship. Currently, the College sits at No. 3 in conference rankings
Head coach Tony Shaver and the Tribe will have a chance to improve to as high as No. 2 before the tournament, beginning Saturday when it hosts Northeastern.
Tip-off is set for 4 p.m. at Kaplan Arena.