After squeaking out a nailbiter against Mount St. Mary’s to open the season, William and Mary enjoyed a much more comfortable victory in its home opener Monday night, defeating Grambling State 74-55 in the friendly confines of Kaplan Arena.
The Tribe (2-0) shot just under 55 percent for the game, dishing out 25 assists, including a career-high eight for recently-named team captain sophomore guard Jenna Green, and collecting 40 points in the paint as it utilized a significant height advantage down low. Junior forward Alexandra Masaquel poured in 16 points to lead all scorers and spoke after the game about the College’s success on offense against the Tigers (0-2).
“Just great ball movement against their zone,” Masaquel said. “Found the openings, and just looked for each other…I feel a lot of confidence with my teammates behind my back, being there to pass me the ball and get me the open looks.”
Masaquel was joined in double figures by sophomore center Abby Rendle and reigning Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week junior guard Marlena Tremba, who each chipped in with 10 points. Rendle put in an impressive all-around performance, adding nine rebounds, four assists, four blocks and four steals to her stat sheet.
Just great ball movement against their zone,” Masaquel said. “Found the openings, and just looked for each other…I feel a lot of confidence with my teammates behind my back, being there to pass me the ball and get me the open looks.”
After connecting on 45 percent of their three point attempts at Mount St. Mary’s, Tremba and the other Tribe shooters struggled to hit the mark from beyond the arc against Grambling State. The first half saw none of the College’s 10 shots from long range fall through the net, but in the third quarter alone the Tribe hit four of six, including two from Tremba to close out the period to give the Tribe a 57-38 lead.
Facing a four-guard lineup for the majority of the game, the Tribe put relentless full court pressure on the Tiger ball handlers, forcing 16 turnovers which they turned into 15 points. After the game head coach Ed Swanson lauded his players’ execution on defense.
“That was actually a really tough matchup for us,” Swanson said. “Abby and Alex really had to guard guards today, and I thought we did a pretty good job of staying down and staying in our stance …We wanted to try and wear them out as much as possible. A big part of our offense is predicated on our defense, in terms of forcing quick shots, forcing turnovers … and our pressure did get us some easy buckets, so mission accomplished there.”
Grambling State’s shooting percentage suffered due to William and Mary’s swarming defense, as the Tigers shot just 30 percent from the field and 21.1 percent from three. The College’s length factored in as well, as Grambling State saw nine shots blocked. However with the Tribe working so hard guarding the perimeter, the Tigers were able to get second and sometimes third opportunities to score following misses, collecting 20 offensive rebounds and scoring 10 second-chance points.
That was actually a really tough matchup for us,” Swanson said. “Abby and Alex really had to guard guards today, and I thought we did a pretty good job of staying down and staying in our stance.”
After a 12-4 run to close the first quarter saw Grambling State decrease the College’s lead to four heading into the second, the Tribe outscored the Tigers 38-23 over the next two quarters, leading by much as 25. With the game already decided, Swanson gave several freshmen significant minutes in the second half, not only spelling the starters but also keeping the visitors from making a run at a miracle. Guard Bianca Boggs nearly added her name to the list of players in double figures, scoring nine points in the final 20 minutes, connecting on seven of her eight free throws, and forward Ali Engelhardt scored the first two points of her collegiate career while also recording three rebounds, a block and a steal. Ultimately the College triumphed 74-55, a dominating display from a team on the rise.
William and Mary’s next game will be at local rival Richmond Friday, scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m.