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Men’s basketball: Tribe defeats Old Dominion in defensive nailbiter

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December 2, 2015

9:46 PM

William and Mary returned for its final pre-winter break home game of the semester Tuesday night, hosting in-state and former Colonial Athletic Association rival Old Dominion in a heavily defensive matchup. The Tribe took its fifth victory of the year 55-48, scraping for the win on a late run.

“Great win for our players,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “I think we felt and told our players coming in that it was going to be a grind-it-out game, it was not going to be pretty at times.”

The Monarchs and the College have usually played close games in the past, ODU getting the better of the Tribe in 2014 69-62 after the College led at halftime. Tuesday would prove no different in terms of closeness.

Great win for our players,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “I think we felt and told our players coming in that it was going to be a grind-it-out game, it was not going to be pretty at times.”

The first half saw strong defensive presence by both teams as well as poor shot selection from several players. Sophomore guard David Cohn scored the College’s first six points and would continue to lead in total points for the Tribe for the entire first half. Cohn’s points were also the only points for the Tribe until sophomore forward Jack Whitman hit a shot after over 10 minutes had already transpired. After Cohn’s shots provided the Tribe with a 6-4 lead, ODU went off on a 6-0 run over five minutes to lead 10-6 before Whitman’s basket. During that period, the Tribe missed four attempts from the arc, a trend that would carry through the game. The Monarchs’ shot selection was off the mark as well, missing five shots during the run.

William and Mary managed just 19 points in the first half, although the game remained close. The Tribe would not regain the lead before the buzzer, but kept ODU’s advantage small down the stretch. Senior center Sean Sheldon’s two free throws with 1:31 before the break were the Tribe’s last points, while the Monarchs also scored from a free throw to end their first half scoring, the score 22-19.

The way we play, our offense is spread out and we’ll never be a great offensive rebounding team, and that’s just something we understand,” Shaver said. “But we also don’t give a lot of transition baskets …. so there’s a tradeoff in that.”

At the break, the College held a 10-6 advantage in the paint and a 5-0 advantage from turnovers but suffered a 6-0 deficit in second-chance points, as the Tribe’s offense was largely spread out and thus ill suited for offensive rebounding.

“The way we play, our offense is spread out and we’ll never be a great offensive rebounding team, and that’s just something we understand,” Shaver said. “But we also don’t give a lot of transition baskets …. so there’s a tradeoff in that.”

William and Mary shot eight for 25 in the first half while ODU was nine for 27, neither shooting accurately on field goals in the first half. En route to its first game without a three-pointer since 2005, the Tribe began by falling short on all eight of its attempts from range in the first 20 minutes.

Coming out of the locker room, the Tribe looked more like its usual self, advancing the pace of play from where the Monarchs were controlling it.

“Coach came in at halftime and it was obvious that we were playing at their pace, so that was one of his key points was to start playing at our pace, start playing more up-tempo … that made a huge difference,” Prewitt said.

Beginning how the last half ended, Sheldon made two free throws to bring the score to 22-21, but Old Dominion persevered to keep its lead until the 12-minute mark as sophomore guard Greg Malinowski made a tying lay-up to bring both teams to 31. Never out of the game statistically due to the low percentages from the Monarchs, the College began its push toward victory. Tying again three minutes later at 35 points, the Tribe took a lead on its next bucket, a successful free throw from junior guard Omar Prewitt. At the six-minute mark, a Prewitt lay-up while drawing a foul led to a 39-37 lead with the successful shot from the line.

The team is much more than me offensively, and the coaches did a great job of just keeping me in the game doing what I do well, which is rebounds, steals, blocks,” Tarpey said.

The final five minutes were a blur of action leading to an unlikely victory. After Old Dominion tied the game at 39 and then began another lead, once again a Prewitt layup and foul shot bailed out the team to tie the game at 44, two minutes later. With 3:25 to go, senior forward Terry Tarpey, who hadn’t scored at all on the night, made a steal but missed a layup. ODU established a two-point lead 48-46 with 2:04 to go, but would not score for the remainder of the contest. The Tribe erupted on a nine-point run as Tarpey opened up for seven points (five during the run, two right before) and Prewitt also sank a shot and two free throws during the run.

“The team is much more than me offensively, and the coaches did a great job of just keeping me in the game doing what I do well, which is rebounds, steals, blocks,” Tarpey said. “At the end of the game, it just kind of came to me and I made my chances.”

Ultimately, the game ended 55-48, the Tribe saving its largest lead for the end of a gritty defensive matchup.

“I thought in the second half we were much better offensively,” Shaver said. “One thing, when we’re good, we really share the ball. I think this team latches into poor shot selection at times. Lot of confident players, but we’ve got to stay together … We’ll get better as the season goes on.”

The final statistics ended up with no three-pointers on 15 attempts, making Tuesday’s game the first since Jan. 23, 1991 that the College won a game without any shots from range.

“Obviously that’s one of the biggest parts of our game,” Prewitt said. “But there’s going to be nights like that and you’ve got to adjust to it so driving in the lane was big for us and offensive rebounds by Terry were huge there at the end.”

Obviously [three-pointers are] one of the biggest parts of our game,” Prewitt said. “But there’s going to be nights like that and you’ve got to adjust to it so driving in the lane was big for us and offensive rebounds by Terry were huge there at the end.”

The Tribe made 13 of 30 field goal attempts for a 21 of 55 full game rate, a 38 percent completion rate. Free throws saved the College from a loss, the team making 13 of 18 while Old Dominion made four of nine from the line. The Monarchs also had a low shooting percentage for the whole game, finishing with a 36 percent field goal rating and going two for 18 in three-pointers.

“I think coming into this game, [ODU] was somewhere high in the nation in three-point field goal defense and that’s just something they really keen in on in practice and it shows in the games,” Tarpey said. “We were ready for it, but our shots that we did take didn’t quite go down. It’s a funky defense to play against.”

Prewitt led all scorers with 18 points while Sheldon led in rebounds with nine boards. The Tribe dominated in the paint, outscoring ODU 32-14 inside. Shaver noted that this game is much different than the previous games this season, where the College was averaging 78 points per game.

We’ve played a brutal schedule,” Shaver said. “Beat NC State, played a great game at Dayton, they’re picked to win that league, played Hampton here [who’s] picked to win that league, and played Old Dominion who’s picked to win that league in some polls, and Virginia is next I guess. It’ll be a great challenge for us.”

“I think we proved we can win different types of ballgames,” Shaver said.

Next up for the Tribe is a trip to Charlottesville, Va. Saturday to face No. 10 Virginia. Tipoff is at 2 p.m. and the game can be watched on ESPN3.

“We’ve played a brutal schedule,” Shaver said. “Beat NC State, played a great game at Dayton, they’re picked to win that league, played Hampton here [who’s] picked to win that league, and played Old Dominion who’s picked to win that league in some polls, and Virginia is next I guess. It’ll be a great challenge for us.”

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Nick Cipolla

Sports Editor Nick Cipolla '17 is a neuroscience major from Virginia Beach, Va. He was previously Associate Sports Editor.