William and Mary returned to action for its second game of the season at Kaplan Arena with a matchup against Howard Monday night. The Tribe was looking to claim its first victory of the season, after falling behind early and struggling to deal with the pace of Virginia Commonwealth in a 72-55 loss Nov. 6 in the College’s home opener. Meanwhile, the rival Bison have enjoyed a strong start to the 2018-19 campaign. They kicked off the season with a close victory over La Salle on the road before cruising to a 77-57 in their home-opener against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The College sought to hand the Bison their first loss of the season by beating them for a second-straight year after an 83-71 victory on the road in its season-opener in 2017. Then-junior guard Bianca Boggs was key in the College’s victory over the Bison last season. She posted a double-double with game-highs in points, with 26, and rebounds, with 11. Monday, both offenses struggled early and then came to life with a barrage of threes in the second quarter. A balanced attack, led by Boggs, propelled the Tribe to its first victory of the season with an 88-75 victory over the Bison.
The College struggled to protect the ball in the loss to the Rams and started out similarly against the Bison, with two turnovers in the opening two minutes. These mistakes allowed the Bison to run out to an early 4-1 lead. The lone point for the College was on a free throw by redshirt sophomore guard Harper Birdsong. Boggs scored her first points of the night on a three-point play after finishing a layup despite a foul by guard Tariah Johnson. After consecutive defensive stops, a rarity in the Tribe’s home-opener, the College seized its first lead of the game, 8-7 on a jumper by sophomore guard Nyla Pollard. The Tribe’s defense forced the Bison into their third turnover of the game, allowing the home team to have possession out of the media timeout. The College made the most of the opportunity, as junior forward Victoria Reynolds knocked down a pair of free throws to extend the advantage to three points with less than five minutes left in the first quarter. With the Tribe still clinging to a one-possession lead later in the quarter, Boggs forced a turnover that allowed Pollard to hit her second shot of the game, a three-pointer this time. On the next possession, Birdsong added a long two-pointer, stretching the College’s advantage to seven. Guard Jayla Thornton scored four straight points late in the first quarter, but the Tribe still led 22-18 after the opening 10 minutes.
At the start of the second quarter, each team’s first bucket was from behind the arc, with Pollard reestablishing the College’s four-point advantage with her second three-pointer of the half. The Bison added their second three-pointer of the quarter with just over seven minutes left, but the College had the answer once again. Freshman guard Eva Hodgson made a baseline jumper for her first points of the night to make the score 29-24. A couple possessions later, she hustled back on defense and prevented a breakaway layup, allowing freshman forward Emma Krause to drain a three. With just under five minutes to play in the half, Krause hit another three-pointer to give the College its largest lead of the game so far, 37-28. Nevertheless, the Bison did not allow the Tribe to take a double-digit advantage and started to chip away at the lead again. Back-to-back threes by Thornton sliced the visitors’ deficit to just three points with three minutes left in the quarter. As the clock dipped below two minutes, Thornton buried yet another corner three to even the score at 37. However, Boggs steadied the College with a layup and an assist to give it back the lead. Her assist was a kick-out in transition to senior guard Misha Jones. Jones was fouled on the shot, but knocked down the three nonetheless and completed the four-point play at the free throw line. As the clock was winding down in the second quarter, Jones hit her second three of the game to give the College a 46-39 lead going into the half. In total, the teams combined for 11 threes in the opening 20 minutes.
“Misha Jones really had a great first half for us,” head coach Ed Swanson said.
The College picked up where it left off in the second half, hitting its first three-point attempt of the third quarter. Birdsong knocked down the shot after sitting out a majority of the first half due to foul trouble. Boggs gave the College its first double-digit lead of the game after coming up with an offensive rebound and scoring through contact. Just seconds later, she committed a foul on the defensive end and the Bison cut their deficit to eight. However, the College scored the next 10 points to hold a 62-44 advantage with 6:24 left in the third quarter.
“You want to have three runs in the game,” Swanson said. “The first one of the game, the last one and the longest one… and I thought we had the longest run of the game today.”
The College completed the scoring run on a bounce pass from Boggs to Reynolds, who made the layup in transition.
“When we’re aggressive on defense and it turns into transition points is important for us,” Boggs said.
Despite ending the run with three free throws, the Bison did not make another field goal until the 4:45 mark of the quarter. However, their back-to-back buckets gave them a 7-0 scoring run of their own and cut the Tribe’s lead to 11. Birdsong responded for the Tribe to stop the bleeding and give it a 64-51 advantage at the media timeout. After the timeout, the Bison scored the next four points to trim the deficit to single-digits. Nevertheless, a three by Hodgson and a layup by Jones gave the College a comfortable 12-point advantage with just 10 minutes to play in the game.
Boggs scored the Tribe’s first points of the quarter on a layup, giving her 20 points for game. On the next possession, she converted another three-point play on a driving layup. Nevertheless, the Bison refused to go away, putting together a 10-point scoring run. With just over five minutes to play in the game, the College clung to a 74-69 lead. Krause could not end the run at the free throw line, where she missed a pair, but she atoned for the misses with her third three-pointer of the night just seconds later.
“You just have to keep a short-term memory with mistakes,” Krause said.
She nailed another on the College’s next offensive possession, to stretch the lead to 80-71 with 3:30 remaining. With less than two minutes left, Boggs helped to seal the win for the College with an assist and a three-pointer. The Tribe walked away with an 88-73 victory.
The College was paced by Boggs’ balanced effort. She had a game-high 26 points, along with nine rebounds and seven assists.
“[Boggs] is a special player,” Swanson said. “She can beat you in a lot of different ways.”
Krause, Birdsong and Reynolds each finished in double-figures, as well. In a losing effort, the Bison were led by Thornton’s 22 points off of six three-pointers.
The Tribe will look to bring its record above .500 for the first time this season when it travels to Loyola Saturday for a game at 2 p.m. The game Saturday will be the College’s first road contest of the season.
“That’s going to be another hard-fought game for us on Saturday,” Swanson said.