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Men’s basketball: Tribe advances to CAA semifinals for third straight season after 79-64 win over JMU

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March 5, 2016

10:13 PM

One week removed from a regular season finale loss in Harrisonburg, Va., No. 5 William and Mary showed up ready to play and dominate No. 4 James Madison in the Colonial Athletic Association Championships quarterfinal round, defeating the Dukes 79-64 at Royal Farms Arena this afternoon in Baltimore.

To defeat JMU, the Tribe (20-10) utilized a much stronger defensive presence than previous games as well as significant output from the bench and tournament veterans from the starting five.

“The bench won the game for us tonight,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “Those four guys really turned the game for us no doubt about it.”

“The bench won the game for us tonight,” head coach Tony Shaver said. “Those four guys really turned the game for us no doubt about it.”

After taking the opening tip, the College missed two three-pointers while the Dukes (21-11) established a quick 4-0 lead. The first point for William and Mary came from a free throw by junior forward Omar Prewitt. After another JMU bucket with 16 minutes and 24 seconds remaining in the half put them ahead 6-1, it looked to be early signs of a repeat from last Saturday. However, the Dukes wouldn’t score again until just 5:42 remained in the half. In the over 10-minute period between, the Tribe went on a tear, scoring 20 straight while remaining present to get defensive rebounds as well as contesting shots consistently. The run began with a dunk by senior guard Terry Tarpey from a feed by Prewitt after a steal, and it continued to include 11 points from the bench as well as contributions from Prewitt and senior forward Sean Sheldon.

“Going into the game [Whitman and I] knew as big men we were going to get their smaller guards down in the post, so the key was just roll hard and seal them,” Sheldon said. “If we could get to the ball, good things were going to happen, and the guards were getting it to us so we got some easy baskets down low.”

Today in the first half, we were very active in the zone,” Shaver said. “Our rotations were very quick and precise. Obviously [JMU] missed some shots they were capable of making,too, but that’s what a zone does to you, it makes you tighten up a bit if you miss a few.”

After the James Madison answered the run, the College stayed hot, ultimately closing the half on a 30-9 run for a 31-15 halftime lead. Shaver attributed the lead to strong defense.

“Today in the first half, we were very active in the zone,” he said. “Our rotations were very quick and precise. Obviously [JMU] missed some shots they were capable of making,too, but that’s what a zone does to you, it makes you tighten up a bit if you miss a few.”

Not a team to leave anything on the court, William and Mary opened the second half with a Prewitt three-pointer after the team made just 1 of 9 in the first 20 minutes. The Dukes came out of the gates with a renewed energy after the crushing Tribe run, keeping a more active presence in the paint defensively and preventing inside drives while  their shooting heated up as well.

JMU, just 1 for 12 from three point range in the first half, went on to make 8 of 20 in the second half while increasing its floor percentage from 26 to 43 percent. However, the Tribe’s depth was key this afternoon, as sophomore guard Connor Burchfield went 4 for 4 overall and 3 for 3 from beyond the arc.

“[Burchfield] can change the momentum of the game,” Sheldon said.

We have a lot of players on the bench that could be starters on a lot of teams,” Prewitt said. “Having a bench like that makes it really nice because when you put them in, you’re not losing anything from your starters. That’s going to be a real key for us in this tournament.”

Additionally, sophomore forward Jack Whitman went 3 for 3 from the floor and 3 for 4 from the charity stripe with five boards to boot, sophomore guard Oliver Tot added the only three-pointer of the first half during the long run and sophomore guard Greg Malinowski added two key lay-ups and steals as well as a pair of free throws. The bench scored 29 points in today’s game to just 13 for JMU.

“We have a lot of players on the bench that could be starters on a lot of teams,” Prewitt said. “Having a bench like that makes it really nice because when you put them in, you’re not losing anything from your starters. That’s going to be a real key for us in this tournament.”

The Dukes, led by senior Ron Curry, fought their way back into the contest, decreasing the Tribe lead to as low as five with just 96 seconds remaining. However the College would hold its composure down the stretch and won by 15 points with four of the Tribe’s starters netting 10 free throws to finish 17 of 18 on the line in the second half as time expired.

“It seemed like [JMU] went for 10 minutes and hadn’t missed a shot,” Shaver said. “Part of that’s our fault … but we responded really well to that. Showed a lot of toughness … and of course we went to the foul line and made a lot of free throws.”

The final score would be 79-64, Sheldon putting the nails in the coffin at the line with 31 seconds left and Curry missing his final three-point attempt of his college career soon after.

I don’t look at is as last year’s game I guess. We have a new team, they have a new team … we’re going to go back to the drawing board and try to get a win tomorrow.” – junior guard Omar Prewitt on tomorrow’s game vs Hofstra

Prewitt led with 25 points, one of four Tribe players in double figures. Sheldon and Burchfield posted 11 each, while sophomore guard David Cohn added 10 in today’s effort. Tarpey had a game-high six assists, Cohn right behind at five.  Though the rebound battle appears slim at 35-33 (the Tribe holding the advantage), William and Mary had 31 defensive rebounds, a definite sign of improvement from earlier this season when the boards battle got away from the team. Sheldon had six rebounds to lead the Tribe, one of five College players who grabbed four or more boards.

The Tribe moves on to face No. 1 Hofstra tomorrow at 1 p.m. in the semifinals for the second consecutive year. Comparisons were immediately made to last year’s memorable double overtime victory that sent William and Mary to its second straight championship game, but Prewitt was quick to respond to those bringing up last year.

“I don’t look at it as last year’s game I guess,” Prewitt said. “We have a new team, they have a new team … we’re going to go back to the drawing board and try to get a win tomorrow.”

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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.