William and Mary closed out its non-conference schedule with four wins in its last five games, giving the Tribe momentum heading into Colonial Athletic Association play. The College’s first conference game of the season was a showdown with Hofstra in New York Friday evening. The Pride finished non-conference play at an even 6-6 and looked to exceed expectations in the CAA after being picked ninth in the preseason poll. Meanwhile, the Tribe, picked sixth in the conference, looked to build on its sustained success under head coach Ed Swanson and contend for a CAA championship.
Jan. 4, the College started its path to a championship on the right foot with a 60-55 road victory over the Pride. The Tribe led by double-digits at halftime and strong backcourt play by freshman guard Eva Hodgson and senior guard Bianca Boggs allowed the College (8-4, 1-0 CAA) to hold on and beat the Pride (6-7, 0-1 CAA).
The College’s defense, which proved critical to its non-conference success, struggled in the opening minutes, as the Pride outscored the Tribe 10-7 in a fast-paced opening four minutes of action. However, back-to-back buckets by Hodgson and Boggs gave the College the lead midway through the first quarter. After Hofstra briefly regained the lead, the Tribe surged back ahead on a three-pointer from redshirt sophomore guard Harper Birdsong. Her three gave the College a 14-12 lead, one it would not relinquish until early in the fourth quarter. Hodgson and Boggs combined for the last seven points of the quarter for the Tribe, and it led 21-15 at the end of a high-scoring first quarter.
In the second quarter, the College was able to extend the lead into double-digits. The Tribe’s defense stepped up and held the Pride scoreless for nearly the first three minutes of the quarter, and a Birdsong three gave the College a 26-15 advantage with over seven minutes to play before halftime. The Pride was able to close the gap to six points before Boggs and Hodgson chipped in five points apiece to put the Tribe on top 36-24 with just over two minutes remaining in the half. Senior guard Misha Jones, who started for the second-consecutive game, drilled a three-pointer at the 1:15 mark to give the College its largest lead of the game, 39-24, and the Tribe led by 12 at the break.
However, after a strong offensive performance in the first half, the College mustered just eight points in the third quarter. At the 6:29 mark of the quarter, the Tribe was still in control, holding a 45-31 lead after a bucket by sophomore center Gabby Rogers. Nevertheless, the Pride closed the quarter on a 14-2 run, holding the College to just one successful basket in the final six minutes of the quarter. Forward Marianne Kalin had eight points during this stretch for the Pride and guard Boogie Brozoski added another five, including a three-pointer in the waning seconds of the quarter to cut the deficit to just two points. The College still held on to a slim lead, 47-45, after three quarters.
In the fourth quarter, Brozoski picked up where she left off in the third, with four-straight points. This gave the Pride a 49-47 advantage, its first lead since the first quarter. However, Hodgson responded to tie the game, her first of two game-tying shots in the fourth quarter. With three minutes remaining in the game, the Tribe trailed 52-50 and had scored only 11 points in the second half. Hodgson, playing 39 minutes in her first career CAA game, came up big again with a game-tying layup at the 2:30 mark on an assist from Boggs. After a stop on defense, Birdsong drained the go-ahead free throws to put the College up for good. The Tribe did not make another field goal after Hodgson’s game-tying layup, but the College shot free throws well down the stretch to ice the game and eke out a 60-55 victory in its CAA-opener.
The Pride was led by Brozoski and Kalin, who each posted 17 points. In the victory, the College was led by Boggs and Hodgson’s 40 combined points. Hodgson posted 18 in her CAA debut, and Boggs had 22 points and 10 rebounds for her second-straight double-double. Boggs backed up her 26 points and 10 rebounds last weekend against George Washington that propelled her to a CAA Player of the Week nomination. Birdsong also played valuable minutes off the bench and chipped in nine points and the go-ahead free throws.
The Tribe will look to remain undefeated in conference play with another road matchup Sunday afternoon in Boston against Northeastern. The Huskies also won their first CAA game of the season against Elon and will pose a tough test for the College early in conference play.