The William and Mary men’s basketball team upended in-state rival Old Dominion, 74-68, on New Year’s Day at Kaplan Arena. The Green and Gold knocked down 11 3-pointers and hit 21-of-27 from the free throw to pick up 10 points in the Optima Health Challenge against the Monarchs. W&M won for the sixth time in its last eight games to improve to 7-5 on the season, while ODU fell to 5-9.
The Optima Health Challenge is a running score of all direct competitions between the schools. For the third straight year, W&M and ODU have partnered with title sponsor, Optima Health, for the Challenge. A champion will be named at the end of the 2013-14 athletic season and receive the Optima Health Trophy. The schools meet in 10 sports this season, and following the men’s basketball win for the Tribe, the competition is tied at 20.
Junior guard Marcus Thornton continued to torment the Monarchs, scoring 22 of his 26 points in the second half. Last season, Thornton averaged 27.5 points per game in a pair of wins over ODU. He knocked down a trio of 3-pointers and was 11-of-15 from the free throw line to go with three assists and three steals. Senior guard Julian Boatner poured in 14 points and connected on 4-of-6 from 3-point range, while freshman Omar Prewitt rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points, including a 3-of-4 effort from 3-point range.
W&M led by nine, 35-26, at the half, but Old Dominion scored 16 of the first 21 points in the second to take its first lead of the contest. A Dimitri Batton jumper with 15:33 remaining put the visitors from Norfolk on top for the first time at 42-40.
Thornton answered for the Tribe with a 3-pointer, putting the Green and Gold back in front. After a Monarch bucket, senior forward Fred Heldring knocked down a 12-foot jumper to give the Tribe the lead for good. His jumper sparked a 9-2 W&M spurt. Another Thornton triple, this one from the left corner, extended the Tribe cushion back to 52-46 with 10:41 remaining and forced an ODU timeout.
Boatner connected on an NBA-range 3-pointer from the left side to beat the shot clock with 6:43left and push the margin to seven, 60-53. The Monarchs closed to within 62-60 with 2:26 remaining on an Ambrose Mosley 3-pointer. Following a W&M timeout, though, sophomore Sean Sheldon hit Thornton on a backdoor cut, and the junior threw down a dunk over an ODU defender, giving W&M a four-point cushion. The Tribe connected on its final 10 free throws from four different players over the final minute to ice the 74-68 victory, it third straight in the series against Old Dominion. In a series that dates back to 1969 and spans 85 games, it is the first time that W&M has defeated ODU on three straight occasions.
W&M finished the contest shooting 46.7 percent (21-of-45) from the floor, including an impressive 11-of-23 (47.8 percent) from 3-point range. The Tribe dished out 16 assists on 21 made field goals and shot 77.8 percent (21-of-27) from the free throw line. ODU connected on 50 percent (29-of-58) from the field and held a 32-27 advantage on the glass.
The Tribe scored the game’s first five points on a Sheldon lay-up and a 3-pointer from senior Kyle Gaillard, before a Thornton jumper at the 16:37 mark gave the Green and Gold a 7-1 lead. W&M’s cushion was 11-7 after an Aaron Bacote jumper just over seven minutes into the game. The Tribe ripped off a 17-4 run to take its largest lead of the contest.
Boatner and Prewitt highlighted the run with their 3-point marksmanship. The duo totaled five 3-pointers over a six-minute straight to extend the Tribe lead to 28-11. W&M scored nine straight points on three consecutive 3-pointers from Boatner and Prewitt.
W&M hit eight of its first 11 shots from the floor, and Prewitt’s second 3-pointer at the 10:55 mark gave W&M a 20-7 advantage. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Boatner made it 28-11 with 6:15 left in the opening half.
Bacote went on a personal 9-0 run to close the Monarchs back within single digits. After back-to-back 3-pointers, his conventional 3-point play at the 4:21 mark cut the Tribe margin to 28-20.
Gaillard scored five straight for the Green and Gold as his 3-point play with 2:11 left extend the lead back to double digits at 33-20. ODU narrowed the gap to nine points, 36-25, at the intermission.
The Tribe was forced to play without senior All-CAA forward Tim Rusthoven, who missed the contest due to illness. Sheldon earned his first collegiate start and finished with four points and four rebounds, while Heldring played 18 minutes in reserve and added two points and two rebounds. Gaillard topped the Tribe with six rebounds and three assists to go along with nine points. Bacote led all scorers with 28 points for Old Dominion, while Batton and Richard Ross chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively.
The Tribe returns to action when it travels to Macomb, Ill., to face defending Summit League regular season champion Western Illinois on Saturday, Jan. 4. Tip-off is slated for 8 p.m. ET at Western Hall. Fans can follow the action over the Tribe Radio Network with Jay Colley on the call. The Tide 92.3 FM and 107.9 Bach FM are the flagship stations of the Tribe Radio Network and the audio feed can also be heard on the Web at TribeAthletics.com.