After opening its season with two victories on the road at North Carolina State and Liberty, William and Mary continued its winning ways in Kaplan Arena Thursday evening, defeating NAIA member Washington Adventist 85-60 in the Tribe’s 2015-16 home opener.
Just as in the 70-59 win over Liberty earlier in the week, the College (3-0) stalled at times on the offensive end, forcing up contested shots or turning the ball over, but at other times looked like the team that blew out N.C. State to open the season, moving the ball around at a rapid pace and finding open shooters or cutters to the rim for easy baskets. After the game, head coach Tony Shaver commented on his team’s early season win streak.
“In three games we’ve learned a lot about this team,” Shaver said. “We can be really good when we do it the right way, and we also learned we can be really bad when we start playing one on one and don’t take care of the fundamentals of the game … If we want to be a championship-caliber team, those are stretches of the game we’ve got to eliminate.”
While not obvious when looking at the margin of victory, those stretches of poor play had an impact on the stat sheet. The College shot its lowest percentage of the season, connecting on 46.4 percent of its field goal attempts after shooting over 50 percent in each of the first two games, and was blocked 10 times. Cold three-point shooting also haunted the Tribe early, as the team hit only two of its 12 shots from outside the arc in the first half.
In three games we’ve learned a lot about this team,” Shaver said. “We can be really good when we do it the right way, and we also learned we can be really bad when we start playing one on one and don’t take care of the fundamentals of the game … If we want to be a championship-caliber team, those are stretches of the game we’ve got to eliminate.”
With the outside shots not falling, William and Mary once again found success inside, racking up 46 points in the paint. Junior guard Omar Prewitt led all scorers on the night with 22 points, scoring the majority from layups. Senior forwards Sean Sheldon and Terry Tarpey also made the Shock (3-4) pay down low, both scoring in double figures, with Sheldon’s 14 points setting his career high. Afterwards, Shaver praised his big man’s work ethic and production in the post.
“I’m just so happy for Sean Sheldon,” Shaver said. “For four years all he’s done is work, and he doesn’t get a lot of press, doesn’t get a lot of glory, not a lot of articles written about him. All he does is get better, and I’m so happy for him.”
On the other side of the ball, the Tribe defense put in an impressive performance, limiting Washington Adventist’s explosive offense — averaging over 83 points per game coming into Thursday — to a 35 percent shooting percentage. Playing a mix of zone and man-to-man, the College made scoring a struggle for the Shock, putting hands in passing lanes and contesting every shot. By the end, the Tribe had 13 steals and 10 blocks, having forced Washington Adventist to turn the ball over 18 times, allowing the College to get out in transition, scoring 24 fast break points.
I’m just so happy for Sean Sheldon,” Shaver said. “For four years all he’s done is work, and he doesn’t get a lot of press, doesn’t get a lot of glory, not a lot of articles written about him. All he does is get better, and I’m so happy for him.”
With the Tribe lead cut to eight with 13:33 to go, a surprising Shock upset still loomed as a possibility in the minds of the crowd of 1,822 inside Kaplan. The defense stepped up, holding Washington Adventist to just six points over the next nine minutes. That defense quickly turned to offense, as the College poured in 27 points over that stretch, opening up a massive 29-point lead to seal the door shut, ultimately triumphing 85-60. Tarpey, who alone had three blocks and five steals, talked about the execution of the game plan on defense.
“Just do our job,” the reigning Colonial Athletic Association Defensive Player of the Year said. “Our job to a man is to help your teammate, and whether that’s being in the gap, whether that’s just being in the right spot on defense, or it’s hands high on the ball, just working on principles and playing for each other.”
While most Tribe fans’ eyes will be on the 125th edition of the “Oldest Rivalry in the South” on Saturday afternoon with the CAA football conference championship on the line against Richmond, the men’s basketball team travels to Ohio to take on a strong mid-major foe in Dayton, a participant in the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons and a favorite in the Atlantic 10. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel as well as the A-10 Network.