William and Mary returned home Feb. 1 to take on Colonial Athletic Association foe Delaware after a two-game road trip last weekend. The Tribe managed to salvage a split last weekend against the top two teams in the conference, James Madison and Towson. The College toppled Towson, who entered the matchup with a 6-1 record, to push the Tribe’s conference record over .500 on the season. Meanwhile, Delaware was able to recover from a 1-4 start in the conference with two victories last week against North Carolina-Wilmington and Charleston. Friday, the Blue Hens pushed their winning streak to three with a wire-to-wire 70-59 victory over the College.
The Tribe (11-8, 4-4 CAA) closed within one point on four occasions, but the Blue Hens (9-11, 4-4 CAA) used a run late in the third quarter to pull away and sink the Tribe.
“You have to credit Delaware, I thought they played terrific,” head coach Ed Swanson said. “I thought they really knocked us back on our heels.”
After two missed shots on their first possession, the Blue Hens struck first on a three-pointer by guard Abby Gonzales. After another scoreless possession for the Tribe, the Blue Hens stretched their early lead to six. However, the College was able to stop the bleeding with six of the next nine points. Freshman guard Eva Hodgson had four of those points, courtesy of assists from senior guard Bianca Boggs and junior forward Victoria Reynolds. The College committed four turnovers in the opening five minutes of the quarter. That sloppy ball handling, along with a hot shooting start by the Blue Hens, led to an 18-6 advantage for Delaware at the 4:14 mark of the quarter. Prior to the media timeout, Boggs made the College’s first three-pointer to cut the deficit to nine, 18-9. Redshirt sophomore Harper Birdsong and Boggs each scored after the timeout to wrap up the Tribe’s 7-0 scoring run. Despite this run, the College’s defense, giving up just over 62 points per game on the season, struggled in the opening 10 minutes, conceding 23 points. This allowed the Blue Hens to enjoy a five-point edge after the first quarter, despite senior guard Misha Jones’ three at the buzzer.
Neither team was able to score in the first two minutes of the second quarter, but Boggs recorded an assist and a free throw to cut the Blue Hens’ advantage to just two points with over seven minutes to play before halftime. The Tribe was able to close the gap to one before the Blue Hens scored four in a row to prevent the College from seizing its first lead of the evening. At the media timeout, the Blue Hens still led by five, 29-24, with 4:48 to go before the break. Nevertheless, Reynolds scored five points in the first two minutes after the timeout to bring the Tribe back within one. The College still could not take the lead in the first half and the Blue Hens took a 35-30 lead to the locker room. Delaware out-rebounded the Tribe in the second quarter, 16-5, which allowed them to maintain their five-point edge.
“We’ve got to do a better job [rebounding],” Swanson said. “We need to find some more people that care about rebounding.”
The Blue Hens continued to use second-chance points in the opening minutes to stretch their lead, but Hodgson and Reynolds combined for five-straight points to narrow the margin to one point for the third time. After trading baskets, the College finally had a chance to take its first lead of the contest, but Boggs and Jones each missed shots to keep the score at 39-38 at the midway point of the third quarter. The Blue Hens were able to get a little breathing room with buckets on either side of the media timeout. With just over four minutes to play in the third, the Blue Hens took their largest lead of the second half, 45-38, after a floater by guard Paris McBride. The Blue Hens ultimately stretched their scoring run to 10-0, taking their first double-digit lead since the first quarter. The College tried to claw back within striking distance before the end of the third quarter and two three-point plays by Birdsong allowed the Tribe to get within eight, 54-46, with 10 minutes remaining.
The Blue Hens reclaimed a double-digit lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter and the College missed on a couple of opportunities to get back within five or six points, allowing the Blue Hens to lead 59-50 at the 6:12 mark of the fourth quarter. The Tribe’s offense really struggled in the first five minutes of the quarter, registering just four points during that span. The Blue Hens also limited Boggs to just nine field goal attempts and thus limited the damage of the Tribe’s leading scorer on the season.
“People start to key on me,” Boggs said. “I guess they did play really good defense.”
The Blue Hens took their largest lead of the game just far as the clocked ticked under five minutes to play, scoring four consecutive points to go up 63-50 and essentially put the College away. The Tribe was able to get as close as eight in the waning minutes, but the Blue Hens cruised to a 70-59 victory.
In the win, the Blue Hens were led by Gonzales’ 16 points. Meanwhile, the College was led by four players in double-figures, including Reynolds’ 14 points and six boards. The Tribe will conclude its weekend with a matchup against Drexel in the Golden Game Sunday. The Dragons are another top contender for the CAA regular season title, but the College will look to avoid its first two-game skid of the season.
“We’re looking forward to getting back on the court,” Swanson said. “Drexel’s a championship-level program. … We’ll come ready to practice hard tomorrow and we’ll be ready to play on Sunday.”