Just a day after soaring to an incredible semifinal triumph, William and Mary’s season ended with a 72-61 loss to Northeastern in the Colonial Athletic Association championship final. The College fell behind 36-26 at halftime and never recovered, trailing by as much as 22 in a game the Huskies (23-11, 12-6) mostly dominated.
Coming off a pulse-pounding double overtime win over Hofstra Sunday night, the Tribe entered the final with a hop in its step. But the College (20-12,12-6) proved unable to compete with the Huskies for much of Monday night, as Northeastern shot a blistering 59 percent from the field and 60 percent from three. By contrast, the College shot just 38 percent overall and trailed the Huskies 68-46 with just under four minutes to play.
However, the Tribe found one last burst of energy, going on a 16-0 run in three minutes to cut the Northeastern lead to 67-61 with 36 seconds to play. Not to be denied the victory, Northeastern hit five of its final six free throws to close out the 72-61 win and sent the Tribe home just short of a miraculous comeback victory.
“Most teams would’ve probably folded when you get down 20 with so little time, and we really showed some fight,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “I wish we had showed the fight for 40 minutes, but we really showed a lot of character and a lot of toughness hanging in there. And we really gave ourselves an outside shot at winning that ball game.”
Senior guard Marcus Thornton scored 20 points and notched five assists to lead the Tribe, and sophomore guard Daniel Dixon added 15 points and four rebounds. The two combined for 14 points in the College’s frantic 16-0 rally, but it wasn’t quite enough to propel the College to a CAA title and the ensuing NCAA Tournament bid. Junior guard Terry Tarpey added 10 points and seven rebounds.
The star of the night was Huskies guard Quincy Ford, who was named the CAA Tournament’s most outstanding player and played accordingly Monday, scoring 22 points, hitting eight of 10 shots and playing smothering defense on standout Tribe sophomore forward Omar Prewitt, who finished with just four points.
Northeastern set the tone from the onset, sending the Tribe reeling with a 10-0 run to start the game. The College rallied to tie the game at 18 with an 18-8 run, but Northeastern’s zone defense stifled the College’s attack in the first half, and the Huskies’ offense patiently swung the ball around the court to set up and drain open shot after open shot. The Huskies hit 14 of 22 shots in the first half in a scorching offensive performance and entered halftime with a 36-26 lead.
“Their execution level was so high, and they got what they wanted,” Shaver said. “I thought we took bad shots in the first half, and I thought they took great shots in the first half.”
The onslaught continued in the second half, as the Huskies went on a 15-4 run shortly after intermission and the game spiraled out of the Tribe’s grasp. Northeastern hammered the Tribe with a constant onslaught of on-target jump shots, and the Tribe simply didn’t recover until its belated rally. In hindsight, the College’s comeback bid came too late, and against too great of a deficit. Northeastern scored another 36 points in the second half to finish the game with a 72-61 win and cut down the nets in Royal Farms Arena.
“We didn’t cut as hard as we usually do, we just weren’t executing as well as we needed to,” Thornton said. “Credit to [Northeastern] they played good defense, but I’m not sure we did everything we needed to do on the offensive end for us to be successful.”
The loss marked the end of the College’s pursuit of a berth in the NCAA Tournament. However, the strength of the Tribe’s season has ensured it a spot in the upcoming National Invitation Tournament. Though the College fell short of its goal of a CAA Title, the tournament provides a last encore for Thornton, who will graduate this May. The date, opponent, and location of the Tribe first NIT game are yet to be determined.