Saturday’s game between William and Mary and Hofstra was riddled with defensive lapses and missed opportunities, by the College. Unfortunately for the Tribe (16-8, 8-3 CAA), the Pride (17-7, 8-3 CAA) converted on those mistakes. The beginning of the game was a good litmus test for effort throughout the rest of the game. Pride guard Eli Pemberton immediately opened with five quick points, while the Tribe was plagued with ill-advised threes and turnovers. That disparity foreshadowed the final score: 83-60, Hofstra.
While the Tribe offense settled for long three-pointers early on, the Pride closed passing lanes and took what the Tribe gave them on offense instead. Because of this poor start, the College played from a deficit against a team whose starters average double figures.
About five minutes into the half, sophomore guard Thornton Scott made a three-pointer for the Tribe’s final lead of the entire game. The Tribe was up by one point, 9-8, and it lasted all of 37 seconds. A minute later, three free throws from Pemberton snatched the lead right back, and the Tribe did not recover its momentum.
One player, however, refused to let the game spiral. Senior center Nathan Knight attacked the Pride on the boards, notching 16 rebounds for the night. In one high-energy play seven minutes into the first half, Knight ran in for a layup and missed. Snatching the ball out of the Pride’s fingers, he got his own rebound, attempted another layup, and missed again. His teammates began to shuffle to the other side, but Knight grabbed his rebound for the second time and shot his third layup. This one, however, was successful. Knight ended the period with 11 rebounds and eight total points, but the Tribe still trailed by 10, 43-33.
After the game, Knight reflected on the Tribe’s defensive struggles.
“The first half we just kind of let them get in their comfort zone, and when you do that, with players like that, they’re going to get comfortable, they’re going to start taking and making tough shots,” Knight said. “They definitely came back and played a very good game after the game we gave them up in Hofstra.”
In the second half, the Tribe effectively folded, notching 13 total turnovers to the Pride’s seven. Though both teams attempted 59 field goals throughout the game, the Pride made 10 more baskets and three more three-pointers than the Tribe.
Senior forward Andy Van Vliet ended the night with nine points. Knight, on the other hand, more than doubled his first-half total, clocking in at 18 points. Knight, individually, added up to almost a third of the Tribe’s points. His four assists put his offensive production at well over 38 percent of the team’s total.
But the Tribe needed more offensive support in the second half to make Knight’s contribution count. After Knight, graduate guard Bryce Barnes notched the most points in the period with five. Van Vliet had just one layup in the second period. Scott and junior guard Luke Loewe combined for just four points after halftime. The Tribe was not providing Knight with any help.
The lack of an offensive presence was particularly troubling because of the output of the Pride’s starting squad. Pemberton recorded 16 points for the night. Pride guard Desure Buie had a team-high 22 points with seven assists; Pride forward Isaac Kante grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 13 points, making every single field goal he attempted. Every single Pride starter recorded double-digit points.
“All five players can get going, and they all got going at one point in the game,” Knight said. “They’re very hard to guard as a defense.”
The Tribe has dropped only three games in conference play, but it has lost each game by at least ten, averaging a 20-point deficit per loss. Teams who can close passing lanes and force turnovers have been able to shut down the Tribe. Charleston, who the College faces Thursday, Feb. 2, is tied for first in the CAA with Hofstra and the Tribe. This crucial game will help decide if the College will contend for a regular-season conference championship. The last time they played, the Tribe beat the Cougars 67-56 in Williamsburg.