William & Mary Tribe

2016 CAA Tournament: Hofstra advances to CAA Finals

The CAA Semifinals last year featured two great games and 2016 had the same type of atmosphere…it even included the same four teams. 

Hofstra and William & Mary played in one of the best games of the 2015 season, W&M knocking off Hofstra after Daniel Dixon go-ahead three pointer. Hofstra came into this rematch a year later, as the #1 seed and had revenge on their mind. 

Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley combined for 37 points in Hofstra’s 70-67 victory over William & Mary. Both players didn’t play their best game even though they got the win. Green - the 2015-16 CAA Player of the year - struggled in the first half shooting 1-5 from the field with two turnovers. Green was also on the wrong end of a highlight reel when Greg Malinowki made him stumble with a smooth crossover-stepback three pointer, that gave the Tribe crazy momentum to go into halftime with 34-30 lead. 

Green would eliminate that play from everyone’s memory when he made the biggest play of the game, diming Denton Koon for the go-ahead layup. 

“Lets get it out the way now, we thought about this game for 364 days,” Joe Mihalich, head coach of Hofstra, said about the rematch. “We thought about that loss for a year and I’m glad we got a chance to make up for it.” 

“We should have loss that game today but it’s because of these guy I’m sitting next to [Green and Tanksley] and the other guys in white shirts.” 

Hofstra in the first half struggled to stop the William & Mary due to the ball movement. The Tribe shot 48% from the field and 44% from the three point line. Malinowski led the Tribe with 22 points, shooting 5-8 from behind the arc, 3-4 in the first half. 

Hofstra also seen their big man, Rokas Gustys, have a very tough game inside the paint, picking up his fourth foul at the 8-minute media timeout, with only two points. That turned out to be a blessing for The Pride because it forced them to play small ball which helped them defensively. 

Desure Buie only played 15 minutes but his presence on the court helped the Pride on their rotation to nulify the Tribe’s steady ball movement. Buie, standing only 6’2, was able to be that scrappy defender that caused disruption in the Tribe’s fast pace Princeton offense. 

William & Mary’s star player, Omar Prewitt, had his worst shooting performance of the season, going 1-12 from the field finishing with 5 points. For Prewitt this is the third time he has been eliminated from the conference tournament, losing in the championship game in his freshman and sophomore season. With DIxon and Malinowski - who had his best game of his career - returning, the Tribe will once again be one of the top contenders next season. The question is will they be able to get over the hump? 

Hofstra will make their first appearance in the championship game since 2006 and look to claim their first conference title since joining the CAA in 2001.

Baltimore Madness

Once again I gotta give credit to the Colonial Athletic Conference for bringing their tournament to the city of Baltimore.

With 4 teams remaining, and 1 games left, the pressure and madness increases. 

GAME-WINNER. What an effort by both teams today. #CAAHoops @tribeathletics

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William & Mary vs. Hofstra turned out to be one the greatness I ever witnessed live in action.

It had everything one would want out of a classic basketball game. You had the underdog in Hofstra, who was playing with a chip on their shoulder, losing to W&M twice this season; and you had the heavily-favorite W&M squad forced to make something happen with their back against the wall. 

William & Mary started the game with a 19-9 run, Marcus Thornton, who had a career day with 37 points (CAA Tournament record), scoring 5 of the Tribe's first 9 points.

It look like the Tribe would walk away with this one, but then they would  go 1-6 on their next 7 shots while the Pride took the lead with a 13-2 run. By the end of the 1st half, Hofstra had a 35-32 lead but Marcus Thornton and Omar Prewitt combined for 25 points. 

 Some great individual numbers were posted in this game.

Juan'ya Green led the Pride with 26, shooting 50% from the field and was 4-9 from behind the arc. I was very impressed with the junior from Philadelphia, mainly because he didn't back down from the best player in the conference. When Marcus would make a play, Juan'ya would come back with one of his own.

Just off the top of my head, I'm picking Juan'ya to win the conference player of the year award. 

Senior guard Dion Nesmith scored 21 but fouled out in the first overtime period. 

In the second half, the Pride was up 68-59 with 5 minutes remaining, thanks to 3 straight three pointers, two of which coming from Brian Bernardi. Bernardi scored all of his 17 points in the 2nd half and overtime periods, and was the main reason why the Pride almost won this game.

W&M would go on a 9-2 run, Omar Prewitt being the main contributor for the run, not only by scoring 6 of the 9, but also hitting the boards heavy. 

Bernardi hit another three to extend the lead to five with 1:41 left but the Tribe finished the period with a 5-0 run provided by Marcus Thornton, sending it into overtime. Free throws is what killed W&M, going 19-34 in the 2nd half and overtime periods. 

It's hard to really explain how good this game was. There were a total of 18 lead changes in the final 30 minutes of the game. 4 players scored 20+ and the crowd was the best it been all tournament, not to mention Dixon's game winning shot.

W&M will now try to get the bad taste from last year's final out of their mouth tomorrow night at 7pm against Northeastern. 

CAA Tournament: UNCW Soars past Charleston

Charleston extended their lackluster season Friday Night after they defeated the Drexel Dragons, 56-48, Charleston needed a near perfect game to upset the #2 seed UNCW Seahawks. The Cougars instead shot 33% from the field, with only one player in double figures in a 26 point blowout loss. 

Charleston did make it interesting in the 1st half, running with the fast pace Seahawks. 10 minutes into the game, the Cougars only trailed by 3 points but the Seahawks turned it on and started to leave the Cougars, outscoring them 19-12 for the reminder of the half, walking in the locker room with a 36-25 lead . 

UNCW didn't allow the Cougars to gain any momentum during the 2nd half, building a 23 point lead in the first 9 minutes of the half on. UNCW The Seahawks shot 53% from the field and was 6-11 from behind the arc. Freddie Jackson and Cedrick Williams finished with 19 while Spurill Addison finish with 12 points and 8 boards. 

The #2 Seed Seahawks will play Northeastern in the second semifinal game Sunday evening. UNCW swept the Huskies this season, defeating them by less than 10 points both games. The matchup I will be interested to see is Spruill Addison and Quincy Ford. Both are athletic but Ford is the better scorer, while Addison is the better defender. It's going to be a fun game to watch. 

CAA Tournament: Tribe extinguish Elon

William & Mary came into this tournament being the top seed for the first time in school history. Of course they are the favorite, but like I said before, this tournament is wide open and anything can happen. Coming into the quarterfinal game, Elon is on a nice 4-game win streak, and came up with a big win against The Tribe at home earlier this season, 85-79, Elijah Bryant scoring 25 points off the bench. In that game both teams combined, attempted 56 trey balls, today was no different. 

Both teams combined for 52 trey ball attempts in their quarterfinal matchup. The Tribe were the ones who converted majority of those attempts, shooting 38% (11-29) from the behind the arc, while Elon was 30% (7-23) 

Defense is what really got the Tribe the victory today though. They made Elon work for every bucket early on, contesting every three point attempt. Elon didn't have a lot of spacing to work with on the perimeter, which you can give credit to Terry Tarpey and Omar Prewitt, who did an excellent job on Elijah Bryant and Tanner Samson. 

Tarpey is the leagues best defensive player and I think the best co-star a team could have. Tarpey leads the conference in rebounds, steals, and block shots, which makes life easier for scoring threat Marcus Thornton. Today, Tarpey finished with 8 points, 9 boards, 5 dimes, and 3 steals. 

Prewitt finished with 16 points. 

Thornton, Prewitt, and Daniel Dixon, outscored Elon's 3 guards 45-33. Thornton, who is the school's best scorer, got off to a slow start, scoring his first bucket at the 8 minute mark in the first half. He would finish the half with 8 points, 2-4 from behind the line. He ended the first half with a buzzer beater 3-pointer that almost didn't happen. Thornton, trying to set up the offense for the final play of the half, lost track of time in the closing seconds. Coach Tony Shaver, eventually yelled Marcus name, and Thornton instinctively, managed to get up the shot right before the buzzer, hitting all net. 

Like I said this game was all about defense. Elon only had one lead during the game, which was 6-5 in the first 2 minutes of the game, from then on it was all William & Mary. In the first 5 minutes of the game, Elon committed 4 turnovers which really hurt them early on. The Tribe also finished with 6 steals and 6 blocks.

Elijah Bryant ends his stellar freshman season with 15 points. William & Mary will now play Hofstra in the semi-final round Sunday at 2:30pm. The Tribe defeated the Pride twice this season, last game being a 80-78 victory on the road February 22nd. 

Street Interviews: Marcus Thornton

After his 17 point performance against Elon in the CAA quarterfinals, I caught up with William & Mary's Marcus Thornton to talk about his expectations for the rest of the tournament and playing 45 minutes away from his hometown of DC. 

Thornton is the All-time leader in points and 3-point shots at William & Mary. He is ranked 11th all-time in CAA history with 2,081 points (David Robinson all-time leader with 2,669 points) and 5th in 3 pointers made with 305 (Brent Blizzard leader with 371. Played at UNCW 2000-03). 

Going Dancing

I would like to thank the CAA conference for bringing their tournament to the city of Baltimore, we rarely get big time basketball like this, as a fan and native, I greatly appreciated. This is the best time of the year and to get a chance to witness one these great battles that goes on during the month is very gratifying. Unfortunately, only one team could go dancing from this conference, the Blue Hens of Delaware. 

This is Delaware's first CAA championship and first appearance in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament since 1999. ( Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

This is Delaware's first CAA championship and first appearance in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament since 1999. (Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Congratulations to the University of Delaware for capturing the CAA title. They were the best team throughout the season in the conference, going 19-2 since January 1st, 14-2 in the conference. This is the Hens first conference championship in school history . For the past 2 seasons the Hens have been eliminated in the semi-finals of the CAA's but they took full advantage of the school's first championship game. Head coach Monte Williams has built a program since becoming head coach in 2006. After a few years of bad basketball, 53-103 in first 5 seasons, the program has done a 180, going 62-37 since 2011. I would say the turning point for Monte was when he recruited Devon Saddler, who started as a true freshman and will finish his Delaware career as the school's best scorer. 

Devon Saddler started all 4 season for the Hens, averaging 18 points a game for his career, being one of the top guards in the country for the past two seasons. ( Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Devon Saddler started all 4 season for the Hens, averaging 18 points a game for his career, being one of the top guards in the country for the past two seasons. (Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Mid-Major conferences are always filled with gems and Saddler is one of them. Saddler has been a starter for all 4 season but he burst onto the national scene his junior season, where he averaged 20 points a game and became one of the best guards in the country. Saddler is not very tall, only 6'1, but he is strong and can score in a lot of ways. He reminds me of Eric Bledsoe because both are strong guards that can attack the paint at will. Saddler averaged 16 points and 5 dimes in the conference tournament but his leadership was more vital in the championship game. In fact Saddler dish out the assist to Carl Baptise for the game winning bucket. Saddler didn't start of well though. The Hens lost their first two games and afterwards he was suspended for 7 games. To make it to this point shows how he and the team can overcome adversity. I am excited what this kid will do in the dance because he is the perfect tourney player, can take over at any time. He is NBA Bound. 

Devon Usher(0) and Carl Baptise (33) both are transfer that made a big impact throughout the season. ( Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Devon Usher(0) and Carl Baptise (33) both are transfer that made a big impact throughout the season. (Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Williams didn't just recruit players out of high school, he also got some talent from other schools. Seniors Carl Baptise and Baltimore native Devon Usher both transferred to UD, Baptise form Saint Joeseph in 2011 and Usher from Mississippi Valley State just this season. These two help make UD a tournament team. Baptise scored a career high 24 points and 8 rebounds while controlling the paint and Usher hit two big 3's in the last stretch of the 2nd half. Jr. point guard Jarvis Threatt also made a big bucket, an AND-1 layup that put the Hen's down 2 with 51 seconds left. The Hens had a 10 point lead early in the 2nd half but the W&M Tribe began to make a run, outscoring the Hens 33-17 for 13 minutes.

Jarvis Threatt was named tournament's Most Outstanding Player, averaging 19.6 points 7 boards and 4 dimes. ( Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Jarvis Threatt was named tournament's Most Outstanding Player, averaging 19.6 points 7 boards and 4 dimes. (Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

This is a great win to have going into the big tournament simply because they faced adversity. While the Tribe was on their run, all the momentum was going their way and the Hens couldn't seem to find a way to slow it down. Tribe guard Marcus Thorton, scored 10 point in the final 7 minutes but missed his final two shots, one of which could have been a game winner. The Hens were smart for going inside to Baptise for the game winner because he was already having a career game. This will be a tough team to play for anybody in the first round. Saddler, Usher, and Threatt combined averaged 58 points this season, while Baptise at 6'9 270lbs controls the paint. This is a veteran squad with one of the best backcourts in the country. Don't sleep on the Hens. 

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