A few weeks ago, as I was reviewing the college basketball schedule for this week, I noticed that William and Mary was hosting VMI on Thanksgiving Eve. Never one to pass up a great opportunity to see college basketball on the road, especially #CAAHoops basketball, I told Mike of my Wednesday night plans and asked him to join my color analyst, aka my older son Matthew, and me to watch the game. Mike was unavailable but was kind enough to reserve two tickets for Matthew and me at Will Call.
We left Columbia about 10:00 AM on Wednesday and despite the constant rain during the six and a half hour trip, we made it to the Historic Powhatan Hotel at about 4:30 PM. After a quick nap, Matthew and I made the short drive to William and Mary Hall, where the Kaplan Arena is located on the campus of William and Mary.
The William and Mary Hall was built in 1971. It includes athletic offices and the multipurpose Kaplan Arena, which seats 8,600 for basketball and 11,300 for other events. Despite being built forty two years ago, the site lines in the arena are quite good. We were up in the Mezzanine level, Section 23, Row E, which was literally center court. Matthew and I felt close to the action. If you like green and yellow seats, this is the arena for you. Matthew appropriately was dressed in green.
When you get to an arena 45 minutes early, you get the chance to peruse the GameDay Notes that the home team provides for some Twitter and Blog post tidbits. Entering Wednesday's game, VMI was 12th in the country in scoring, averaging 91.5 points per game. The Keydets also were 10th in the country in 3 pointers made at 9.8 per game, 4th in blocked shots w 8.3 and 5th in the country in my favorite stat, turnover margin at 7.5. VMI averages 11 steals per game.
W&M also was ranked highly in various statistics. Entering the Wednesday night game, the Tribe were 19th nationally in 2 pt Field Goal Percentage and 67th in effective Field Goal Percentage. W&M was also first in the CAA in Field Goal Percentage, assists and steals.
After a beautfiul rendition of the national anthem performed on violin by one of the William and Mary cheerleaders, Matthew and I were ready for some pre turkey basketball. Based on the statistics, it looked like we were in for a high scoring game with lots of forced turnovers. It turns out though on Wednesday night, only one team brought their shoes on offense.
Dan Crain, a Drexel fan that I am friends with, has started a great new blog called "Dragons Speak". But it's more than just about Drexel, it's about college basketball in general. In a recent article entitled "The New NCAA Rules - Why The Dribble Drive is Your Friend", Dan notes that William and Mary, once known as a three point shooting team, has become a 2 point field goal team, mainly due to the new NCAA rules which have clamped down on the physicality in college basketball. And as noted in a previous paragraph, the Tribe were 19th in the country in the fwo point field goal percentage coming into the game. The first fifteen minutes would prove Dan prophetic.
VMI came out and took a 3-0 lead on a Rodney Glasgow three. But W&M came back and scored the next two baskets to take a 4-3 lead, a lead they would never relinquish. Glasgow would score five of the first seven Keydets' points. VMI was only down 9-7 after three plus minutes into the game.
It was clear early on that the Tribe wanted to work the ball inside to center Tim Rusthoven, affectionately known in #CAAHoops circles as "Beasthoven", and forwards Kyle Gaillard and Terry Tarpey. W&M would go on a 21-4 run over four plus minutes. A Rusthoven layup would cap the spurt with a layup to make it 30-11 with twelve minutes left in the half.
What was most impressive about the Tribe offense over the first eight minutes was that they only attempted two three point field goals, both successful attempts by freshman Omar Prewitt. Prewitt would later nail a third three pointer to put the Tribe up 35-16. The lead would swell to twenty one, 38-17 with a little more than eight minutes left in the half.
But for the rest of the half, William and Mary got away from their offense. In the first fourteen minutes of the game, the Tribe had only attempted four three point attempts, which Prewitt hit on three of them. Over the final six minutes of the half, W&M missed on all eight three point attempts. VMI, who entered the game with a 4-2 record, took advantage, outscoring William and Mary 19-9 during that span to enter halftime only down nine, 44-35.
There were two very surprising statistics from the first twenty minutes. First, Marcus Thornton, who entered the game leading the CAA in scoring average at 21.6 points per game had only two points on two field goal attempts. Second, the Keydets only forced three Tribe turnovers, while committing six themselves.
The start of the second half saw William and Mary revert to their original offense in the first half. Beasthoven, who had missed a few first half bunnies, as William and Mary alum Josh Legette noted to me at halftime, scored the first two baskets for the Tribe. A Tarpey layup extended the lead to twelve 50-38.
VMI quickly tried to adjust by overplaying inside. This resulted in a lot of three point open looks for William and Mary and the Tribe took advantage. W&M hit on three of their next four shots from beyond the arc; two by Julian Boatner and one by Prewitt. The Tribe had extended their lead by nineteen, 61-42 with fourteen minutes left.
But the run was far from done. Over the next six and a half minutes minutes, the Tribe would bury another five 3 pointers, three from an unleashed Thornton. After a Beasthoven tip-in, William and Mary would be up 86-54 with seven and a half minutes left in the game.
All that was left was whether the Tribe would score 100 points. And when reserve forward Fred Heldring calmly knocked down a three to make it 97-64 with two and a half minutes left, it looked like the William and Mary fans in attendance would get that mark. But alas, the Tribe missed their last few shots and the Tribe faithful would have to settle for an impressive 97-67 win.
The Tribe shot 49 percent from the field, including 12 of 27 from beyond the arc. William and Mary hit a ridiculous nine of fifteen 3 point attempts in the second half. Beasthoven lived up to his name with a double double, leading all scorers with 26 points and 16 rebounds. The impressive freshman Prewitt added 22 points on 5 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc. Thornton added 11 points and Tarpey just missed a double double with 10 points and 9 rebounds. The Tribe had 20 assists and only six turnovers.
It was a long night all around for the Keydets. VMI scored twenty four points under their season average. The Keydets also committed thirteen turnovers which gave them a minus seven for the evening. They only had five steals on the night and were 6 of 25 from beyond the arc, also under their season average for three pointers made. The Keydets did have four players in double figures. Trey Chapman led the way with 16 points, Glasgow added 15, QJ Peterson added 12 and Brian Brown had 11 points for VMI.
As we left the Kaplan arena, Matt and I were very impressed by a Tribe team that had played shorthanded on the night. Starting guard Brandon Britt is suspended for a few more games for violating team rules and reserve freshman forward Daniel Dixon, who averages twelve minutes a game, was out due to injury. The Tribe will be a force to reckon with in the CAA.
While we were making our way back to our our suite on the hotel property, we stopped in the middle of the road to let four deer cross from the woods to the pond on the hotel property on the other side. The deer camped out by the fountain much in the same way Beasthoven did in the paint last night.
My guess is that the deer probably feasted on the grass as much as Beasthoven did on the Keydets.