William and Mary NCAA Tournament drought continues

wm-logoHistory will have to wait another year. A furious second-half rally came up short as the William and Mary men’s basketball team fell in the Colonial Athletic Association Championship Game to Northeastern, 72-61, on Monday night at the Royal Farms Arena.

The Tribe dropped its fourth league title game in the last eight seasons. W&M fell to 20-12 on the year, while the Huskies won their first league title since 1991 in improving to 23-11.

Senior guard Marcus Thornton scored 20 points, including a 4-of-8 effort from 3-point range, and five assists. Thornton, who averaged nearly 25 points per game during over the last three days, was named to the CAA All-Tournament Team for the second straight season and was joined on the squad by sophomore Omar Prewitt, who averaged 17.3 points per game over the tournament. Sophomore Daniel Dixon canned 5-of-9 from 3-point range to finish with 15 points, while junior Terry Tarpey added 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

Trailing by 22 points with 3:39 remaining, the Tribe embarked on an improbable comeback trail. Over the three-minute stretch, W&M put together a 16-0 run to slice the deficit to six points. Thornton and Dixon combined for 14 of the Tribe’s 16 points during the spurt, including two 3-pointers apiece. The duo drilled three straight triples, before Tarpey tipped in a miss to close the gap to 67-56 with 2:04 left.

Five straight Thornton points narrowed the gap to 67-61 with 36 seconds remaining, but it wasn’t enough. Northeastern scored the game’s final five points, going 5-of-6 from the charity stripe, to win its first CAA tournament title.

Northeastern finished the game shooting 59.1 percent (26-of-44) from the field, including a 12-of-20 effort (60 percent) from 3-point range. Quincy Ford led all scorers with 22 points, including 15 points in the first half. Walker added 15 points, while Caleb Donnelly and Scott Eatherton chipped in 13 and 12 points apiece.

W&M connected on double-digit 3-pointers for the third-straight game, hitting 10-of-25 (40 percent) from distance. The Green and Gold shot just 38.3 percent (23-of-60) from the field. W&M outscored NU, 23-14, in points off tunovers and 9-2 in second chance points. The Green and Gold also dished out 16 assists on 23 made field goals. Senior Tom Schalk finished with eight points on 4-of-6 shooting off the bench, while junior Sean Sheldon dished out a career-high six assists.

The Huskies opened up a quick 10-point lead, hitting its first four shots from the field. Ford scored the final eight points of the spurt, including back-to-back 3-pointers to force a W&M timeout just over two minutes into the contest.

W&M clawed its way back as two straight layups from Thornton and Tarpey put the Tribe on the board. Schalk and Tarpey combined for eight straight points to pull the Green and Gold even. Thornton found Schalk under the hoop for a lay-up, tying the game at 15 with 13:07 left in the opening half.

The contest remained tied at 20 following a Schalk floater in the lane, but NU answered with nine-straight points to take control. Eatherton scored the opening four points of the run, before Ford capped it with five straight, including a 3-pointer from the right side at the 3:44 mark.

W&M drew within five, 31-26, on Dixon’s second 3-pointer of the opening half, but the Huskies scored the half’s final five points and led by 10, 36-26, at the break. NU shot 63.6 percent (14-of-22) from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, hitting 6-of-8 (75 percent) from 3-point range.

Ford opened the second half with a 3-pointer to push the NU lead to 13, but W&M scored six straight on drives to the hoop to draw within seven. A back-door cut dunk for Thornton followed by a tough finish by Prewitt and a Tarpey fastbreak lay-up closed the gap to 42-35 and forced a Northeastern timeout with 12:42 left.

The Huskies responded with a 20-5 run to stretch its lead to 22 points, 62-40, on a Walker steal and fast-break dunk at the 5:55 mark. Donnelly and Walker highlighted the run with 16 of NU’s 20 points, including a trio of 3-pointers from Donnelly.

Along with Thornton and Prewitt, Hofstra’s Juan’ya Green as well as Northeastern’s Ford, Walker and Eatherton were named to the CAA All-Tournament Team. Ford was selected at the championship’s Most Outstanding Performer.

Despite the setback in the championship game, W&M will receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) as a result of winning the CAA regular season and being the league tournament’s No. 1 seed. It will mark the program’s third NIT appearance and the second under head coach Tony Shaver.

The 32-team bracket will be announced on Sunday, March 15, at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU. First-round games of the NIT will be on Tuesday, March 17, and Wednesday, March 18. Second-round games are set for March 20-23, with the quarterfinals to follow on March 24-25. The NIT Semifinals and Championship will be March 31 and April 2 in Madison Square Garden.

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