The guard tandem of sophomore Marcus Thornton and junior Brandon Britt led a balanced Green and Gold attack as the pair combined for 47 points and 11 assists. Thornton scored a season-high 25 points, while dishing out five assists and pulling down five rebounds. Britt tallied 22 points, including 17 in the first half, on 8-of-10 shooting to go with a career-high six assists. Thornton canned four 3-pointers and was 9-of-10 from the free throw line, while Britt was 3-of-4 from long range.
The Tribe's 60.9 percent (28-of-46) from the floor marked its best shooting percentage since Feb. 4, 2006 when it connected on 63.3 percent (31-of-49) in a win over Georgia State. The 51 first-half points were the most in a half for the Tribe since Nov. 20, 2007 at Wagner. W&M was an impressive 24-of-27 (88.9 percent) from the free throw line and shot 57.1 percent from 3-point range, while knocking down 12 triples. W&M also shared the basketball at a high rate, dishing out a season-high 22 assists on 28 made field goals.
The Green and Gold broke open an early back-and-forth contest with a 12-3 run midway through the first half. UNCW led 17-14 following a pair of Craig Ponder free throws at the 11:38 mark, before senior guard Matt Rum pulled the Tribe even with a 3-pointer less than 10 seconds later. A Tim Rusthoven 3-point play gave the Green and Gold a 20-17 lead, before four straight points from Britt capped the run, giving W&M a 26-20 advantage with 8:39 remaining.
The lead remained six, 30-24, following another Ponder freebie until the Tribe embarked on an 11-2 run to push its advantaged to 15. Junior Kyle Gaillard knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner off a pass from freshman Terry Tarpey to kick-start the spurt. Britt scored five straight points on a lay-up and 3-pointer, before junior Julian Boatner connected on three free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt to pad the cushion to 41-26 with 4:37 remaining.
After a Ponder 3-pointer cut the W&M lead to back to 12, the Tribe scored 10 straight points to take its largest lead of the opening half. Britt and Thornton hit back-to-back 3-pointers, before the junior guard fed ahead to his sophomore running mate for a fastbreak jam, igniting the Tribe faithful and putting W&M on top 51-29 with just over a minute remaining in the opening half.
The W&M advantage was 16 at the intermission, 51-35, and extended to 21 in the opening minute of the second half. Britt set up the opening two Tribe scores of the frame, finding Rum for a 3-pointer and dishing for Rusthoven for a fast-break lay-up. The margin reached as many as 25, 73-48, on a Boatner fast-break lay-up off a dish from Britt at the 11:44 mark, forcing a UNCW timeout.
The Seahawks would not go quietly, scoring on eight straight trips down the court. A 3-point play by Keith Rendleman at the 7:05 mark cut the deficit to 75-63, capping a 15-2 UNCW run. The Green and Gold lead was 81-66 following a Gaillard offensive put back, before another Seahawk run close the gap to a single possession. UNCW hit seven straight shots, including three 3-pointers, on a 14-2 run to cut it to 83-80 with 1:40 remaining.
Thornton cut through the UNCW press on the ensuing Tribe possession, finishing at the rim to push the margin back to five. The Upper Marlboro, Md., native hit 7-of-8 from the charity stripe over the final minute to close out the victory.
Despite being hampered by foul trouble, Rusthoven finished with 13 points in 20 minutes of action on 4-of-6 from the floor and 5-of-5 from the free throw line. Gaillard nearly recorded a double-double performance with 10 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Rum turned in a nice stat line with eight points, seven rebounds and three assists, while Boatner added eight points off the bench.
UNCW finished the night shooting 47.1 percent (32-of-68) from the field, including 9-of-23 (39.1 percent) from 3-point range, but was just 13-of-25 from the free throw line. Rendlemen led the Seahawks with 24 points and 13 rebounds, while Chris Dixon added 19 points and six assists.
The Tribe returns to action when it hits the road in squaring off with Hampton Roads rival Old Dominion on Saturday, Feb. 16. Tip-off is slated for noon at the Ted Constant Center in Norfolk. Five points in the Optima Health Challenge will be on the line when the Tribe and Monarchs meet. W&M currently leads the all-sports competition between the two schools, 40-30. The first school to amass 65 points wins the challenge and receives the the Optima Health Trophy.
The W&M-ODU contest will be televised on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, Philadelphia and New England as well as Comcast Sports Southeast. Tribe fans can also catch the action over the Tribe Radio Network with Jay Colley, Bill McDonald and Charlie Woollum on the call. The Tide 92.3 FM in Williamsburg is the flagship station of the Tribe Radio Network and the broadcast can be heard over the Web at TribeAthletics.com.