William and Mary opened its 2018-19 season Nov. 6 with a home matchup against in-state foe Virginia Commonwealth at Kaplan Arena. The College welcomed the Rams to Williamsburg for their first game since 2015.
Three years ago, the Tribe was routed by the Rams 73-47 at the Siegel Center. For the 2018-19 season, both teams were projected to finish sixth in their respective conferences, the Colonial Athletic Association for the Tribe and the Atlantic 10 for the Rams. The season-opener marked the first time the College took the court since the graduation of players from its winningest class in program history, including former starters, guard Jenna Green and center Abby Rendle.
Tuesday, the Tribe (0-1, 0-0 CAA) came up short in its season-opener, as it led for less than a minute at the start of the game before the Rams (1-0, 0-0 CAA) surged to a sizable lead in a 72-55 setback.
“We had an excellent preseason and it didn’t show tonight,” head coach Ed Swanson said. “We have a lot of new pieces in the mix, and tonight we got exposed by a pretty good, athletic VCU team.”
Both teams struggled on offense on their first couple of possessions, but the College managed to score the first points of the game at the 8:31 mark on a layup by junior forward Victoria Reynolds. However, the Tribe’s lead did not last long. The Rams scored the next nine points to take a seven-point advantage with 5:35 to play in the opening quarter. All nine of the Rams points during this stretch came off of layups or free throws. Senior guard Bianca Boggs, an All-CAA first team preseason selection, ended the run with her first points of the season on a layup. Freshman guard Eva Hodgson then scored the first points of her career with a mid-range jumper from the baseline to help cut the deficit to four points before the first media timeout with 4:01 to play in the quarter.
Out of the timeout, the Tribe cut the Rams’ lead to two, but the Rams fought back to stretch the lead to six again, 16-10. The Rams saw balanced scoring in the early-going, with seven players combining to score their first 16 points. With just over a minute to play in the first, the College hit its first three of the season, courtesy of sophomore guard Nyla Pollard. Freshman forward Emma Krause followed Pollard’s three up with a triple of her own, but the Tribe still trailed 22-17 at the end of a fast-paced opening quarter.
“We do want to get up and down the floor as much as possible,” Swanson said. “Tonight, we didn’t get enough done on the defensive side. We didn’t get enough deflections, we didn’t cause enough turnovers in order for us to get into the half-court, to get easy baskets.”
At the start of the second quarter, Boggs asserted her dominance for the College, scoring its first five points of the quarter and giving her eight points for the game.
“I look to be aggressive and take the ball to the basket as much as I can,” Boggs said.
Despite Boggs’ strong effort, the Rams continued to shoot the ball well and maintained their five-point lead after the first four minutes of the quarter. Midway through the second quarter, the Tribe and the Rams had seven and nine turnovers, respectively. Despite the sloppiness, neither team was struggling to put up points, with the score 31-24 in favor of the Rams.
Out of the media timeout, Boggs caught fire once again, draining her first three of the season to bring the Tribe within two, 31-29. As they had for the majority of the half, the Rams responded and prevented the College from tying the game. As the teams went to the locker room for halftime, the Tribe trailed 37-30.
In the first half, the College was paced by Boggs’ 11 points and three assists. Reynolds chipped in six points, four assists and three rebounds. The Rams benefited from balanced scoring, led by an efficient eight points on 4-4 shooting by forward Sydnei Archie.
The Rams scored the first four points of the third quarter, pushing their lead to a game-high 11 points before Boggs answered with a bucket of her own. The College struggled to get scoring from players outside of Boggs, allowing the Rams to continue to stretch their lead. Swanson was forced to call a timeout at the 6:23 mark of the quarter after the Rams took a 48-34 lead, outscoring the Tribe 11-4 in the third quarter. Sophomore guard Libby Underwood and Hodgson made shots out of the timeout to stop the bleeding, but the Tribe still trailed by double-digits midway through the third quarter. Hodgson continued to add to her strong performance in her first career game with a bucket and an assist to Underwood on back-to-back possessions.
“I think [Hodgson] played really well and really poised, given the circumstances,” Boggs said. “Starting point guard freshman year is a tall task against a really good team.”
However, Hodgson also committed two fouls later in the quarter and was forced to go to the bench with four fouls for the game. At the end of the third, the Rams kept their double-digit advantage, leading 56-45 with just 10 minutes remaining.
The Tribe held the Rams scoreless for over three minutes to start the final quarter, but was unable to cut into the deficit significantly. The College did manage to score the first two points of the quarter, but the Rams quickly reestablished their 11-point edge, 58-47 with 6:38 remaining. Sophomore center Gabby Rogers scored the first four points for the Tribe in the fourth, but as the clock wound below the five-minute mark, the Rams started to slow the game down to preserve their lead. With just over two minutes to play, senior guard Misha Jones knocked down her first three of the season, but the deficit proved too large, and the Tribe fell 67-54 to the Rams.
The College was led in the loss by strong backcourt play from Boggs and Hodgson. Boggs had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists, while Hodgson added eight points and three assists in her collegiate debut. The Rams were propelled to victory with 40 points in the paint. Archie was their leading scorer with 15 points on a perfect 7-7 from the floor.
The Tribe will have the rest of the week to regroup before its second game of the season against Howard Nov. 12. The College will be at home for Monday’s game at 7 p.m., looking to even its record at 1-1.
“This team is filled with character kids, and I know they’re upset right now with what the scoreboard read,” Swanson said. “I know we’re upset with how we played, and I think we’ll bounce back from this.”