William and Mary tried to rebound from a close loss in a low-scoring game Friday against Hartford when the College stayed in Connecticut to take on Fairfield. Last season, the Tribe bested the Stags 57-47 at Kaplan Arena in the College’s home-opener for the 2017-18 season. The Stags entered this year’s game on a four-game losing skid, with all losses coming by double-digits. The Stags won their first two games of the year in blowouts, but have since faltered, setting up a crucial matchup with the Tribe for them to try and get back on track.
Sunday, Dec. 2, the Tribe (4-3) played a close game throughout with the Stags (2-5), and Boggs led the College down the stretch to help it avoid dropping below .500 with a 60-54 win over Fairfield.
At the start of the first quarter, both teams started off strong on the offensive end. The Tribe and Stags traded two baskets in just over two minutes of play and the score was tied 4-4 at the 7:52 mark. However, both teams had been prone to offensive struggles in recent games, and it began to show later in the first quarter. With under three minutes left in the opening quarter, the College held a 9-6 advantage on the strength of senior guard Bianca Boggs’ five points. The Tribe took its first two-possession lead of the afternoon on junior forward Victoria Reynolds’ second layup of the game. The College held that 11-6 lead until the Stags responded with a bucket of their own due to a strong effort on the offensive boards extended their possession. The Stags cut into the deficit even more before the end of the first quarter, as forward Khadidiatou Diouf made a layup to make the score 11-10 in favor of the College after 10 minutes.
Less than a minute into the second quarter, the Stags grabbed their first lead of the game on a three-pointer by guard Kendra Landy. Landy’s three gave the Stags a 13-12 advantage, that only lasted 48 seconds. The Tribe reclaimed the lead on Reynolds’ layup, giving her seven of the College’s first 14 points of the game. The Stags went on a 5-0 run to take their largest lead of the game thus far, before redshirt sophomore guard Harper Birdsong drained her first three-pointer of the game to pull the Tribe back within one before the media timeout. After the media timeout, the College used five free throws, including three by freshman guard Eva Hodgson, to extend its scoring run to eight unanswered points and to take back the lead, 20-18. The Stags started to break out of their scoring slump with baskets on back-to-back possessions, but Birdsong ensured that the Tribe would remain in the lead. She hit back-to-back treys to give her 11 points in the first half and to give the College a 28-23 lead with a little over a minute to play before the break. The Tribe took a slim lead, 30-27, to the locker room.
In the third quarter, Boggs scored the Tribe’s first seven points to give her 12 points for the afternoon. Her seventh point came on a driving layup with less than seven minutes to play in the quarter that extended the College’s advantage to six points, 37-31. Sophomore center Gabby Rogers scored before the media timeout to stretch the lead to a game-high eight points. After struggling tremendously on the offensive end in the third quarter Friday, the College had outscored the Stags 9-4 in just over five minutes of play Sunday.
Out of the media timeout, the Stags stopped the bleeding with back-to-back scores to suddenly get back within three points, 39-36 with under four minutes to go in the quarter. The Stags cut the deficit to one before Boggs and sophomore guard Nyla Pollard combined for the next four points, putting the College back up by five late in the third quarter. The College maintained its five-point lead at the end of the third, taking a 49-44 edge to the final quarter.
However, the College got off to a slow start in the fourth quarter. The Stags started the quarter on a 7-0 run to reclaim a two-point lead. The Tribe stopped the run with baskets by Boggs and Rogers, but the Stags took the lead back and held a 54-53 advantage until there was less than two minutes remaining. Once again, Boggs came up big with a three-pointer, giving her 20 points and giving the College back the lead with 1:08 to play in the game. Head coach Ed Swanson took a timeout for the Tribe after it took the lead, but the Stags got the ball back with a chance to tie or take the lead with less than a minute to play. Guard Casey Foley had the ball for the Stags, but turned it over, her seventh of the game, then fouled Boggs at the other end.
Boggs hit a pair of clutch free throws to give the Tribe a commanding two-possession advantage, 58-54, with 33 seconds left in the game. The Stags had two more shots to try to get back within one possession, but could not hit either of them. The College escaped with a 60-54 victory over the Stags.
The Stags were led in the loss by Diouf’s 17 points and seven rebounds. The Tribe was led by Boggs’ game-high 22 points. Reynolds and Birdsong were also in double figures with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The College will play two games next week against in-state opponents. Wednesday, the Tribe will welcome Richmond to Kaplan Arena. Halftime of that game will feature a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first women’s basketball game in both programs histories. There will be a reenactment of this first game at halftime of the Tribe and Spiders’ game Wednesday. The College will wrap up the week with a road game at Old Dominion before having nearly two weeks off for final exams. The Tribe will look to extend its winning streak and take a lot of momentum into its 13 days off.