In its last three games, William and Mary (5-17, 2-9 CAA) has become accustomed to seeing all of its contests end in similar fashion: The Tribe plays at a high level against good conference opponents, only to fall in the final seconds.
With 1 minute, 14 seconds remaining in the first half Saturday, it appeared that the Tribe would have the potential to write a new ending to the familiar story.
Once again, the squad was locked in a tough, hard-fought match against a conference contender in George Mason. If the team could just hold on for 74 more seconds, it would enter the locker room at halftime brimming with confidence and nursing a two point lead at the break.
Unfortunately, no one told George Mason guard Cam Long.
Long scored five points in the waning minutes of the first half, including an NBA-range three-pointer as the buzzer sounded to snatch the momentum away from the College. The Patriots never looked back following the intermission, and emerged from Williamsburg victorious, handing the College a crushing, 85-69 defeat at Kaplan Arena.
“We played so well in the first half and then to be down by five was a tough thing. We talked about not letting that hurt our spirit at halftime, but they jumped on us after the half … and it’s tough to come back from,” Shaver said.
The Patriots scored the last seven points of the first half and the first five points of the second half to pull away from the Tribe.
Unlike its previous three games, the offense wasn’t the problem for the College. In fact, the squad shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc in the first half — a decidedly good day for the Tribe’s on-again-off-again version of the Princeton offense.
“I thought, offensively, we were really good in the first half,” Shaver said.
At halftime, George Mason Head Coach Jim Larranaga realized that if the Patriots were going to win, they needed to simply outscore the College in the remainder of the contest.
And that’s just what they did. The Tribe continued to shoot well in the second half, but George Mason’s offense exploded for 43 points and looked virtually unstoppable.
“They scored pretty easily on us, and its pretty frustrating because I have always prided myself on being a defensive coach,” Shaver said. “They have so many weapons, and when they shoot the ball the way they did today, they are going to be tough to beat.”
After controlling the Patriots’ scorers in the first half, the Tribe defenders looked confused in the second half. George Mason seemed one step ahead of the College, as they made threes when the Tribe prevented them from driving, and were able to come inside and score in the paint when the College defended the perimeter.
The Patriots scored 48 of their 85 points in the paint, with an additional 10 coming off Tribe turnovers.
The College shot well in the second half, shooting 45.5 percent from beyond the arc, but George Mason kept making shots on the other end. Every time the College would score a basket, the Patriots seemed to always respond by sinking baskets of their own.
“We just weren’t getting stops on the defensive end,” sophomore guard Matt Rum said. “Its hard to win ballgames when you give up 80-something points. We had stretches where we would go on a little run, but we just weren’t getting stops on the defensive end and its hard to come back from that.”
The College had four players score in double figures, but it was not enough to secure a victory. Junior forward Quinn McDowell led the way for the Tribe with 16 points on a 6-for-13 shooting night, while freshman guard Brandon Britt provided 14 on a 3-for-7 performance from the floor.
Despite yet another crushing loss, the College must continue to stay positive and continue to improve.
“[We have to] come back to work every day after these games, some of them are just demoralizing,” McDowell said. “You feel like you are putting in the work but just not getting rewarded for it, but I know that we are going to bounce back and play the next game — that’s all we can do.”