MACOMB, Ill. - Facing one of the top defensive teams in the country, the William and Mary men’s basketball team flexed its offensive muscle to surge past defending Summit League regular season co-champion Western Illinois, 78-67, on Saturday night. The Tribe hit 12 3-pointers and shot 49 percent from the floor in pulling out its fourth non-conference road win of the year. The Green and Gold won for the seventh time in its last nine games to improve to 8-5 on the season, while WIU, who was unbeaten at home entering the game, fell to 6-9.
Junior guard Marcus Thornton topped the 20-point mark for the sixth time this season and second straight game with 25 points on 8-of-16 from the floor, including a 5-of-9 effort from 3-point range. The Upper Marlboro, Md., native tied a career-high with six assists and six rebounds. Freshman Omar Prewitt just missed a double-double with 18 points and eight rebounds to go with three assists. The Tribe's fourth non-conference road win equaled the most for W&M since it joined the ECAC South/CAA. The Green and Gold also accomplished the feat in 1982-83 and 2009-10.
The Leathernecks entered the game holding opponents to just 57.7 points per game, which ranked No. 7 nationally. The 78 points for the Green and Gold also marked the most WIU has allowed this season and the most they have given up at home since 2011. Western entered the game among the top 45 nationally allowing less than 40 percent shooting from the field and less than 30 percent from 3-point range. On the night, the Tribe connected on 49 percent (24-of-49) from the field and an impressive 12-of-24 (50 percent) from 3-point range.
The Tribe led in the early going, 12-10, but WIU put together a 10-2 run in taking a six-point advantage midway through the first half. Mike Miklusak knocked down a pair of 3-pointers during the spurt, including his second at the 10:39 mark to put the home team on top, 20-14.
After a Thornton 3-pointer pulled the Tribe within two just over a minute later, the Leathernecks scored 10 of the game’s next 13 points to take its largest lead of the opening 20 minutes. Miklusak and Garret Covington knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to close the run and give WIU a 30-21 at the 5:06 mark.
Led by Thornton and Prewitt, W&M responded with a 16-2 run to regain the lead. Thornton scored seven straight Green and Gold points to slice into the lead, before senior Julian Boatner canned a triple at the 2:32 mark to close the gap to one and force a WIU timeout. It did little to stem the Tribe’s momentum as Prewitt scored six straight points, including a 3-pointer off a Thornton dish with 1:03 left in the first half, increaing the Tribe advantage to 37-32.
W&M led by three at the half, before Western Illinois scored the first four points of the second half to move back in front. WIU point guard Jordan Foster pulled down a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast for a fast-break layup to give the Leathernecks a 38-37 lead with 16:07 remaining.
The Tribe bounced back with 12 of the game’s next 15 points to take a lead it would not relinquish. Senior Kyle Gaillard knocked down a 3-pointer from the right side to put W&M back in front 40-38 at the 15:29 mark. WIU closed to 42-41, before the Green and Gold scored seven straight points. Thornton canned a 3-pointer and a Prewitt steal lead to a fastbreak lay-up for senior guard Brandon Britt, extending the margin to six. Thornton found sophomore Sean Sheldon for a layup to cap the run and give the Tribe a 49-41 advantage with 11:12 left.
W&M's lead was was seven, 61-54, following a Prewitt lay-up at the 5:30 mark, before WIU made its final push. The Leathernecks scored five straight points on a Covington 3-pointer and a pair of Michael Ochereobia free throws to cut the margin to 61-59 just over a minute later.
On the ensuing Tribe possession, Thornton drove the right side, before finding Boatner in the corner. The Bloomington, Ind., native drilled his third 3-pointer of the contest to push the lead back to five and WIU could get no closer the rest of the way. The Tribe connected on 11 of its final 12 free throws over the final three minutes to push the lead to double digits on the way to the 78-67 victory.
W&M held a 29-26 advantage on the glass and finished the contest shooting 78.3 percent (18-of-23) from the free throw line. Boatner scored in double figures for the second straight game with 10 points on 3-of-4 from 3-point range, while Gaillard also chipped in 10 points. In his second career start, Sheldon played a career-high 30 minutes and finished with eight points, six rebounds and two assists.
Western Illinois finished the contest shooting 50 percent (24-of-48) from the field and had 16 assists on its 24 made field goals. Covington scored a career-high 26 points, while Ochereobia added 12 points for the Leathernecks.
The Tribe returns to action when it opens Colonial Athletic Association play with Drexel on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. from Kaplan Arena, and the live HD video stream will be available on TribeAthletics.com. Fans can also listen to the game on the Tribe Radio Network with Jay Colley, Bill McDonald and Charlie Woollum 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 broadcast can also be heard on TribeAthletics.com.