William and Mary finally had a reprieve from its challenging non-conference schedule when it picked up a 17-point victory over Division III opponent William Peace. The College’s defense struggled to contain the hot-shooting of the Pacers, but its own offense overwhelmed the Pacers, especially in the first 10 minutes of the second half when the Tribe stretched its lead to a game-high 29 points.
Dec. 22, the Tribe wrapped up its non-conference schedule with a game against a top-five opponent and defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion, Virginia. The undefeated Cavaliers entered the game giving up just 51.3 points per game, the top mark in the nation. The Tribe, on the other hand, averages 77.3 points per game on offense, with a season-low of 53 against another national leader in scoring defense, Old Dominion. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have only allowed one team to score more than 60 points in a game this season.
Against Virginia (11-0, 0-0 ACC), the College (4-8, 0-0 CAA) struggled to get going offensively outside of junior forward Nathan Knight and the Cavaliers coasted to a 72-40 victory, their twelfth-straight over the Tribe.
The College had some early offensive success against the vaunted Cavalier defense, but had several scoreless possessions going into the game’s first timeout at 14:12. The College struck first on a bucket from Knight. The Cavaliers claimed their first lead less than three minutes into the game on a three-pointer from guard Kyle Guy. However, redshirt junior guard Matt Milon, who played in the ACC his freshman season for Boston College, made two free throws to put the College on top for the third time in the early going. Nevertheless, the Tribe’s offense went cold and the Cavaliers reeled off eight-straight points to go up 13-6.
Freshman guard Chase Audige stopped the bleeding with a putback on Knight’s missed shot out of the timeout, but the Cavaliers scored the next six, taking advantage of the Tribe’s early woes from behind the three-point line to lead 19-8. The College missed its first nine three-point attempts. Neither team had a turnover in the opening 11 minutes, but Audige came up with a steal on the defensive end, looking to score a transition bucket and end a 17-2 Virginia scoring run. He was whistled for an offensive foul and forward Jay Huff became the seventh Cavalier to score in the first half, hitting a three from the top of the key on the ensuing possession.
Out of the under-eight media timeout, Knight got back on track with a layup to bring the score to 25-10 and halt a 20-2 scoring run that began with the Cavaliers trailing 6-5 earlier in the half. Knight also scored on the next possession, but the Tribe still trailed by 15 as the clock ticked below five minutes in the first half. Knight had 11 of the Tribe’s first 17 points of the game. With Knight carrying the load, the Tribe managed to hang around and cut the lead to 11 on its first three-pointer of the half. Audige drained the three and then the College went back to Knight on the next possession. He was fouled and hit a free throw to cut the deficit to 10, 31-21. At the half, the deficit sat at 11, with the Cavaliers on top 34-23.
In the second half, Knight started off the way he did in the first, with a basket on the opening possession of the half. This time, his mid-range jumper pulled the Tribe within nine. After a stop on the other end, junior forward Justin Pierce finally got on the board with his first points of the afternoon, and the College cut its deficit to six, 34-28. Nevertheless, the Cavaliers responded with five quick points of their own to reestablish their 11-point edge. The Cavaliers ultimately went on a 10-2 run to take a 44-30 lead at the 15-minute mark, with the College’s only points during that stretch coming from Knight.
After the Tribe whittled the Cavalier lead to six, Virginia scored 13 of the next 15 points to tie their largest lead of the afternoon at 17. Guy took advantage of an offensive rebound to give the Cavaliers their largest advantage, 49-30, with 12 minutes left in the game. Knight finally ended the drought for the College and scored on back-to-back possessions to bring the score to 53-34 and give him 20 points for the game. Knight also had 10 of the Tribe’s first 13 points of the second half. Despite Knight’s strong performance, he fouled out with 5:56 to play and no one else really got it going on offense for the Tribe. Audige was the next highest-scorer for the College with seven points. With Knight out of the game, the Cavaliers were able to cruise to a 72-40 victory over the Tribe.
Knight led the College in the loss with 22 points. He is only the second player to score 20 points against Virginia this season, along with Wisconsin forward Ethan Happ, a 2018 first team All-Big 10 selection. Contrary to the Tribe, the Cavaliers benefitted from a balanced offensive attack. Guard De’Andre Hunter led scoring with 18 points, while Guy added 16 more for Virginia.
While the Cavaliers have one more non-conference game Dec. 30 against Marshall before they open ACC play, the Tribe will jump into conference play in its next game. The College returns to Kaplan Arena for its CAA opener against James Madison. The Tribe finished fourth in the CAA last year after starting 5-0 in conference play and will look to get off to a strong start again in 2018-19 after a tough non-conference stretch.