The Tribe Menâ€™s Basketball team fell to Northeastern in the first round of the CAA Tournament to Northeastern on Friday. The game was played at Richmond Coliseum, and the loss put an end to the Tribeâ€™s 6-26 season. A 4-14 conference record left William and Mary as the 10 seed, matched up against the 7th-seeded Huskies, who went 9-9 in conference. It was a seemingly favorable matchup for the Tribe, who beat Northeastern 79-54 at home on February 11. Unfortunately, lightning didnâ€™t strike twice for the Tribe. The team struggled offensively and had little presence on the boards, a combination that ultimately led to the Tribeâ€™s 49-57 defeat.
The Tribe first got on the scoreboard when sophomore Brandon Britt drained a three-pointer a minute into the game to put the Tribe up 3-2. But after a turnover on the ensuing possession, a quick Huskies layup with 18:07 left in the first half put the Tribe behind. Those 53 seconds with the lead would be it for William and Mary, as Northeastern led the rest of the game. Brittâ€™s three would also be his only points.
The first half was pretty uneventful for the Tribe, and their poor shooting saw them down 10 points with 6 minutes left. However, a pair of three-pointers and some defensive stops fueled a 12-5 run to end the half with the score 22-25. The William and Mary student section, which consisted of a few dozen students in addition to the Pep Band, got fired up after watching the Tribe charge back.
However, Northeastern responded with a pair of threes of their own in the opening minute of the second half. They pulled out to a 12-point lead, but again the Tribe managed a comeback. Although sophomore Julian Boatner was just 2 for 7 on the night, his two made baskets were clutch threes that helped the Tribe bounce back. But, the pinnacle of the night came with six and a half minutes left when, on a fast break, senior Quinn McDowell hustled down the court and put up a strong lay-up through contact. It rattled around and fell through the net. And one. The crowd erupted. McDowell was pumped up. The Tribeâ€™s bench was psyched. The score was 43-46, only a 3-point deficit.
The cheers died down after McDowell missed the free throw; he went 0 for 3 for the night from the charity stripe. The Huskies then scored 6 unanswered points, seizing the momentum and effectively putting the game out of reach. The final buzzer sounded and the season was over for William and Mary. For the seniors, it was a frustrating end to their careers. You could see the disappointment and sadness in their faces as they walked through the tunnel, some even succumbing to tears.
It was a bad night of basketball all around for the Tribe. They shot just 5 for 10 from the free throw line. On the other hand, Northeastern got there 33 times and made 20 of their free throws. The Tribe was also dominated on the boards, as they were out-rebounded 36 to 25.
The Tribe actually shot better than the Huskies: 39.6% compared to 34%. But they were just 6 of 22 from behind the arc, meaning that almost half of their 48 shots were from beyond the arc. That exposes a problem theyâ€™ve had all season: not working the ball inside.
Often the Tribe just passed the ball around the perimeter for their entire possession before settled for a tough, long shot. Unfortunately, the teamâ€™s shooting statistics verify the ineffectiveness of this strategy. A more dynamic offensive attack could often be found in feeding sophomore Tim Rusthoven in the post or driving by the guards, specifically Britt and freshman Marcus Thornton. Driving creates easier shots for everybody, and Thornton is talented enough to either adjust his shot or dish the ball to a big man.
Speaking of Thornton, where was he in the game Friday? He came off the bench and played 29 minutes. He struggled early, but he began driving into the lane later in the game. His best play involved a quick drive and a nice pass around a defender in the paint to Rusthoven who made the open layup. Thornton ended the game with 10 points, shooting 4 of 9 from the floor. Only Rusthoven had more points with 12.
In the end, itâ€™s head coach Tony Shaver who designs the offense, and obviously his three-point shooting system didnâ€™t work this season. Britt and Thornton need to drive more, getting people to the free throw line and freeing up open three-pointers. The CAA is a tough conference, and some changes have to be made next year to compete, whether they be coaching or schematic alterations.
Thornton is arguably the teamâ€™s best player, and itâ€™s safe to say heâ€™s the most talented. He was named to the CAA all-rookie team and put up over 20 points three times. His potential is evident, and he will be exciting to watch over the next few years.
Next season should be better for William and Mary. Although the intensity of our seniors McDowell, John Mark Ludwick, and Kendrix Brown will be missed, other players will step up. Guard Matt Rum will be a senior, and his on-court passion will be key in leading the team. On Friday, he was going up for all the rebounds with the big men, coming down with 4.
The sophomore class is also very promising. Rusthoven has maybe the most heart of anyone on the team, diving on the floor for loose balls multiple times every game. Boatner is a good three-point shooter, despite not displaying his usually pure stroke for much of the season. Britt started slowly but came into his own down the stretch. Then thereâ€™s Fred Heldring, who saw little action over the last month but played a lot of minutes earlier in the year when injuries plagued the team. He has good size and could develop into a quality post player to complement Rusthoven.
Even more disheartening than the Tribeâ€™s record this season was the lack of fans at all of the games. Students canâ€™t do much about the empty seats in the upper level, but we need to fill up the student sections. And where was our Tribe Pride at the tournament last Friday? As many Northeastern students showed up as did William and Mary students, and they came all the way from Boston! It was pathetic, honestly, especially since the tournament was not even an hour away from school.
After a rough season with a few ups and many downs, one can only look forward to winning at least seven games next year. Maybe that will get more fans into Kaplan Arena to cheer on the team and give some real meaning to Tribe Pride.