Men’s basketball: Tribe suffers disappointing Senior Day setback versus Drexel

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February 22, 2016

10:06 PM

Midway through the second half, senior forward Terry Tarpey stepped out aggressively on the Drexel point guard, swatting the ball away and sprinting for the steal. Tarpey gained possession in stride and raced to the other end with the steal, as he’s done so many times this season and over his career. As a Drexel player followed in pursuit of Tarpey, fans in Kaplan Arena realized that no dunk would be forthcoming, but at least the lay-up would change momentum and allow the Tribe to break out of a tight game.

Tarpey glided into the air, extended his arm for the layup and came back down in one fluid motion, looking back at the basket expectantly. The ball hit the backboard and rolled nearly the entire circumference of the rim before falling out and into the hands of a Drexel defender. Such was the luck of William and Mary, as every foundation of the Tribe’s (18-9, 10-6 Colonial Athletic Association) successful season fell to pieces in a devastating 74-69 Feb. 20 home loss to Drexel (4-23, 2-14 CAA), the worst team in the Colonial Athletic Association by nearly every measure.

“{Tarpey} spilled his heart on the floor tonight, but from an execution standpoint, it was a tough night for him” Shaver said.

The defeat, unthinkable after the victory over CAA leader North Carolina-Wilmington on Thursday, breaks the Dragons’ 11-game losing streak. Senior forward Sean Sheldon and Tarpey also earned the dubious distinction of going out of Kaplan with a loss to an underdog Drexel team on Senior Day, as Marcus Thornton ’15 did last season. The parallel was not lost upon head coach Tony Shaver.

“That’s two years in a row that we’ve come into this last home game and not played as well as we’re capable of playing,” Shaver said. “ . Number one you’re losing great kids, and then number two we haven’t played very well on this day in recent years.”

Tarpey’s inability to finish at the basket was hardly an issue prior to the Drexel game. The team captain shot 50 percent entering the game, but he managed just 1 of 7 from within the three-point arc. Ironically, Tarpey’s three-point shooting, often a weakness as he averages just 25 percent on his triples, was better than his inside game as he shot 1 of 3 from the arc.

“The guy played his heart out today,” Shaver said. “He spilled his heart on the floor tonight, but from an execution standpoint, it was a tough night for him. It’s just a case of a guy who wants it so bad, that you get in your own way sometimes. But I’ll take a Terry Tarpey playing as hard as he did anytime.”

At the start of the game, Tarpey and Sheldon looked to be carrying the team to an easy win. The College jumped out to an 8-0 lead, with Sheldon getting six of those points. Tarpey had three rebounds in just over two minutes of game time, en route to collecting 13 boards for the Tribe.

The Dragons stormed back however, hitting 4 of 4 triples and adding a dunk to take a 24-20 lead with just under seven minutes left in the first frame. Despite ranking in the bottom of the CAA in field goal percentage (38.7), three point percentage (32.7) and scoring offense (63.0 points per game), the Dragons created offense in the first half without relying on the foul line, with only 4 of their 30 points from free throws. Drexel shot a perfect 4 of 4 from the free throw line, in sharp contrast to the Tribe’s 5 of 10.

Despite poor free throw shooting, the College rallied from a 30-23 deficit over the course of three minutes to close out the half at a 30-30 tie. Junior guard Omar Prewitt proved to be the engine of the offense, racking up 29 points on the night. However, the three-point play opportunities created by his aggressive drives to the basket evaded him more often than not, as he shot a mere 5 of 11 on foul shots, contributing to a meager 11 of 22 outing for the Tribe at the free throw line.

Those points would be severely missed.

“We can beat anyone in this league and anyone can beat us,” Shaver said. “I guess that came into fruition tonight. Give them credit for playing as well as we did. Taking all that into account, if we just simply make our layups and free throws, we win by 12 or 14 points. But we didn’t. It’s a cruel sport sometimes.”

Another bellwether of the Tribe’s performance was the uncharacteristically poor shooting of sophomore guard Connor Burchfield. Burchfield’s 57.8 percent conversion rate on triples is the best in the nation, but he fired 0 of 3 Saturday from the three-point arc. The team as a whole shot 6 of 21 from downtown.

“We can beat anyone in this league and anyone can beat us,” Shaver said. “I guess that came into fruition tonight. Give them credit for playing as well as we did. Taking all that into account, if we just simply make our layups and free throws, we win by 12 or 14 points. But we didn’t. It’s a cruel sport sometimes.”

The last of those misses sealed the loss for the College. Down by as much as 10 in the final five minutes, the Tribe’s comeback attempt crawled forward, bringing the deficit to nine with under two minutes remaining. Prewitt completed an old-fashioned three-point play, and sophomore point guard David Cohn drained a triple to make the score 65-60. A Tarpey steal on the inbound added two more points, and the Tribe trailed by three with just 68 seconds to play.

After junior guard Daniel Dixon air-balled a triple with 44 seconds, the Dragons reached 70 points via free throws as the Tribe fouled to get possessions. Tarpey hit a three to put the score at 70-67 with 24 seconds. The Tribe finally got the ball down a single possession, 72-69, with seven seconds, the first such opportunity for the College since 11:15 remained in the second half. The third time was not the charm for Burchfield as his final attempt from three clanged off the front rim.

In addition to the sting of losing the Senior Day game, the loss eliminates the Tribe from contention for the CAA regular season title. Up next for the College is a road matchup at Elon Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. in Elon, N.C., followed by the regular-season finale at James Madison Feb. 27.

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Sumner Higginbotham
  • Sumner Higginbotham

Flat Hat Sports Editor Sumner Higginbotham '16 is an accounting major from Altavista, Va.

  • Wilmot Proviso

    HAHAHA *cough* *cough* *wheeze* *drool*