William and Mary had a 13-day hiatus for final exams after Old Dominion stretched the Tribe’s defense in an 83-69 setback Dec. 8. The College saw its two-game winning streak halted at Old Dominion, giving up the most points in a non-conference game so far this season.
Dec. 21, the College returned to action with another game against an in-state opponent, this time visiting Norfolk State for an afternoon contest. The Tribe looked to regain momentum and start a new winning streak against a Spartan team that won three of their last six games, with each win and loss coming by a double-digit margin. The Spartans have won all five of their games in which they have scored at least 65 points. Friday, the Tribe (6-4, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association) used its defense to stymie the Spartans (5-7, 0-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) in a 55-44 win.
The Tribe’s defense got off to a strong start, holding the Spartans to just two points in the first five minutes of the first quarter. However, its offense only managed to make two shots during that span of time, but freshman guard Eva Hodgson drained a three off an assist from senior guard Bianca Boggs to give the College an early 5-2 advantage. At the media timeout, the Spartans had failed to make a field goal attempt, going 0-4 from the floor, while the College was shooting just 25 percent at the 4:42 mark of the quarter. After three early free throws, the Spartans finally made a jumper nearly six minutes into the quarter to knot the score at five. The Spartans took their first lead of the afternoon on a layup by forward Khadedra Croker before Birdsong pushed the College back in front, 8-7, with her first three-pointer of the game. Birdsong capped off the College’s first quarter scoring with a layup and tacking on a free throw to give her six of the Tribe’s 11 points in the opening quarter.
The College took a slim lead, 11-9, into the second quarter. Junior forward Victoria Reynolds and Boggs scored for the first time in the contest, making layups in the first three minutes of the second quarter. Boggs was fouled on her layup and added a free throw to stretch the Tribe’s lead to seven, its largest of the game thus far. The Tribe’s defense also continued to play well, holding the Spartans scoreless until after the media timeout. Birdsong also continued her strong first half, making her second three-pointer of the game to give the Tribe a double-digit lead, 19-9. After not scoring for nearly seven minutes of the second quarter, the Spartans made two free throws and a three-pointer to cut the deficit in half. The College was still leading by just five points with 1:11 before the break when Birdsong hit her third three-pointer of the half to give her 12 points and the Tribe a 24-16 lead. The Spartans managed to trim the College’s lead to five before the half, but the Tribe still led 24-19 at halftime.
The Tribe’s backcourt got off to a quick start in the second half, with Hodgson and Boggs each making a layup in the 2:31 of the second half. Nevertheless, the Spartans continued to hang around with a five-point scoring run over the next minute to cut the gap to four, 28-24. The College was able to respond with a 5-0 run of its own, including a layup by freshman forward Emma Krause, giving her four points for the game prior to the media timeout. The Spartans managed to outscore the Tribe 7-6 after the media timeout, but the College still held onto a 39-31 lead with 10 minutes to play.
Similar to the second quarter, the Tribe’s defense started the fourth quarter well, keeping the Spartans off the board until the 5:30 mark when they scored to cut the deficit to 10. Birdsong responded immediately with her first points of the second half to put the Tribe back up by 12, 45-33 with 5:21 remaining. Boggs put the College up by 14 after the media timeout, pushing her into double-figures with 10 points, seven of which came after halftime. The Spartans got within eight points in the waning minutes of the game, but the College coasted to a 55-44 victory on the power of its stout defense.
The Spartans offense struggled in the loss, but they were led by forward Kendrea Dawkins 14 points and five rebounds. The Tribe had three players in double-figures, Birdsong, Boggs and Reynolds. Birdsong carried the load in the first half with 12 of her 14 points coming in the opening 20 minutes, whereas Boggs shook off a slow offensive start to score seven of her 10 points in the second half. Reynolds, Boggs and Birdsong also led the College in rebounds with nine, seven and five, respectively. Reynolds also contributed three blocks.
The Spartans will look to rebound from the loss with their last non-conference game in Winston-Salem at Wake Forest. Meanwhile, the Tribe will wrap up its own non-conference slate with a home matchup against George Washington Dec. 29. The College will open CAA play Jan. 4 and Jan. 6 with road games against Hofstra and Northeastern.