William and Mary has its fair share of shooters. It’s what head coach Tony Shaver’s coaching tenure has largely been known for — a plethora of small, accurate perimeter sharpshooters who prefer threes to twos. The gameplan for so many years has been to beat teams with dead-accurate shooting, to the frustration of opposing coaches.
However, the College got a taste of its own medicine Wednesday against conference foe James Madison. JMU guard A.J. Davis scored 27 points off the bench, including seven second-half three pointers, to sink the Tribe 81-71 at the JMU Convocation Center.
Sophomore guard Marcus Thornton led the College (9-13, 3-8 CAA) with 22 points, but the Tribe offense could not keep up with the Dukes (14-11, 8-4 CAA) in the second half.
“I’m not pleased with our play,” Shaver said. “Our team has to get balanced, we can’t have one-and-a-half guys play well and expect to win on the road. We weren’t sharp mentally tonight, but again, give [JMU] credit for the way they played.”
The game began with a series of small runs by either team, eventually ending in a 30-30 halftime tie. Both teams had moderate shooting success in the first half, and neither squad led by more than four points.
When play resumed, however, both teams put on offensive displays. The Dukes — who failed to convert a three-point attempt in the first half — suddenly came alive from beyond the arc, hitting 9 of 14 attempts. Davis accounted for seven of those nine three-pointers.
Led by Thornton, the College made a similar second half charge, shooting 60 percent from the field, including eight threes. The Tribe made 15 three pointers on the day, the fifth-best single game display in team history.
With both squads shooting well, the game came down to defense.
“I wasn’t pleased with our defense,” Shaver said. “A guy like Davis makes a couple, we’ve really got to guard him. Our scouting report on him was to make him put it on the floor and I think he had seven threes … so, we didn’t pay attention to detail in certain situations, but I would give him credit for making the shots too.”
The College’s defense buckled in a crucial stretch midway through the second half. With 14:33 remaining, Thornton hit a three to cut the Dukes lead — which had swelled up to eight — back down to three points.
It was at this point that the Dukes’ sharpshooters took over. JMU guard Ron Curry connected from downtown, and after a turnover by junior guard Brandon Britt on the other end, Davis began to take over.
Davis hit a three at the 13:20 mark to give JMU a nine-point lead, and after Thornton scored a three of his own on the other end, he responded with another triple, restoring the Dukes’ nine-point advantage. Thornton turned the ball over on the other end, and JMU guard Devon Moore converted a three-point play for the Dukes to take a 12 point advantage.
When it was all said and done, the Dukes’ 15-6 run in the span of four minutes was enough to put JMU out front for good. The College continued to score, but wasn’t able to corral the JMU shooters, and the Dukes maintained their advantage for the rest of the contest.
The College committed 14 turnovers on offense, and the Dukes capitalized, scoring 25 points off turnovers.
In addition to Thornton’s 22, junior center Tim Rusthoven added 11 points and three rebounds. Junior forward Kyle Gaillard and Britt both added 10 points for the College.
After the game, Shaver was impressed with his team’s improved shooting from beyond the arc, but thought three-point theatrics were for naught without good defense.
“We kind of wasted a lot of them tonight,” Shaver said with a smile. “I thought we’ve shot the ball better in the last couple of games, but defensively, we can’t give up 51 second-half points and be successful. We worked so hard on the defensive end, and for 20 minutes we were pretty good — not great — but pretty good, and then just stopped paying attention to shooters, and we’ve got to do a better job.”
The Tribe hopes to regain its defensive prowess Monday as CAA leader Northeastern visits Williamsburg at 7 p.m.