WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - A strong first-half performance propelled the William and Mary men's basketball team to an 85-73 Colonial Athletic Association opening win over the Drexel Dragons on Wednesday night at Kaplan Arena. The Green and Gold shot 60 percent from the field and canned 8-of-13 from 3-point range in jumping out to an insurmountable 16-point halftime lead. The Tribe won its third straight in improving to 9-5 on the season, while Drexel dropped to 8-6.
Junior guard Marcus Thornton led an incredibly balanced Tribe attack with 18 points to go along with three assists. Senior Brandon Britt and freshman Omar Prewitt enjoyed 15-point efforts off the bench, while senior Kyle Gaillard added 14 points and five rebounds. Britt had his best game since returning to the Tribe lineup, shooting 4-of-6 from the field, including a perfect 2-of-2 from 3-point range, and a 5-of-6 effort from the free throw line. He chipped in four rebounds and four assists compared to zero turnovers. Sophomore Terry Tarpey just missed his first collegiate double-double with nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Tribe jumped out to an early lead thanks to three straight 3-pointers. Gaillard knocked down the first followed by Thornton and Prewitt capped the 9-2 spurt with a trey at the 14:37 mark to give W&M an 11-4 advantage.
Drexel closed the gap to 14-12 on a 3-pointer by Freddie Wilson, but Britt answered with an arcing triple from the right corner to push the margin back to five. The Tribe extended its lead to nine, 27-18, at the 6:26 mark as senior guard Julian Boatner found classmate Tim Rusthoven for a lay-up as the shot clock expired.
Leading 29-22, Thornton was the catalyst for a nine-point W&M run. He drove the left side of the lane and dished to Tarpey for a lay-up, before converting on a lay-up of his own. The Upper Marlboro, Md., native found sophomore Sean Sheldon for another bucket in the paint and capped the run with a 3-pointer to give W&M a 38-22 advantage with 2:05 remaining in the half.
The Tribe lead reached as many as 17 on a triple from Prewitt with 54 seconds remaining. Drexel scored back-to-back buckets to close the gap, before a Britt 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer sent the Green and Gold to the locker room with a 46-30 advantage.
In the opening 20 minutes, the Green and Gold shot an impressive 60 percent (18-of-30) from the floor, including an 8-of-13 effort from 3-point range (61.5 percent). The Tribe dished out 10 assists on those 18 made field goals and turned the ball over just one time in the first half.
Thornton found Tarpey for a lay-up to start the second half and push the lead to its highest at 18. The Dragons quickly answered with six straight points, including back-to-back lay-ups from Frantz Massenat and Chris Fouch to narrow the margin to 48-36 with 16:37 left and force a Tribe timeout.
Gaillard responded for the Tribe on the ensuing two possessions to extend the margin back to 18 just over a minute later. He knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing off a Prewitt pass, before driving to the basket for the hoop and the harm. His free throw completed the conventional 3-point play and made it 54-36 in favor of the Tribe.
Drexel again clawed back to within 12 points as Massenat scored five straight points, cutting the deficit to 58-46 with 13:29 remaining. Despite being held without a field goal for nearly 10 minutes, the Tribe did an excellent job of getting to the free throw line and actually increased its cushion to 15 points, 66-51, following a pair of free throw from Tarpey midway through the second frame.
A quick seven-point run for the Dragons cut the Tribe lead to single digits for the first time since the four-minute mark of the first half. Fouch knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner, before Tavon Allen drove the right side of the lane for a lay-up. A pair of Massenat free throws with 8:05 left closed the gap to 66-58.
The lead was still eight, 70-62, following another pair of Massenat free throws just over two minutes later. W&M answered as Britt found Prewitt for a 3-pointer from the right wing, pushing the margin back to double-digits with 5:54 remaining.
The Dragons would get as close as seven points on two occasions the rest of the way, but each time W&M extended the lead back to double figures. After Drexel cut the Green and Gold lead seven, 80-73, for a final time, Thornton hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to beat the shot clock and push the cushion to 10 points on the way to the 85-73 victory. The 85 points allowed by Drexel were the most in a non-overtime game since Syracuse scored 93 against the Dragons on Dec. 22, 2010. The Tribe’s point total was also the highest in a CAA game vs. Drexel in six years. Towson was the last team to do so when the Tigers scored 86 against the Dragons on Jan. 12, 2008.
W&M finished the contest shooting 51.1 percent (24-of-47) from the field, including an impressive 47.8 percent (11-of-23) from 3-point range. Drexel entered the game ranked 11th nationally in defensive 3-point percentage only allowing opponents to shoot 27.3 percent from distance. The 11 3-pointers were also the most by a Drexel opponent since the Tribe hit 14 in a 73-72 overtime win over the Dragons in Philadelphia on Jan. 23, 2008.
The Tribe dished out 13 assists compared to just five turnovers and outrebounded the Dragons, 36-32. W&M also connected on 26-of-39 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line in the victory. Rusthoven, who returned to the Tribe lineup after missing the last two games due to illness, finished with eight points and three rebounds.
Drexel shot 44.3 percent (27-of-61) from the floor and 80 percent (16-of-20) from the free throw line on the night, but was just 3-of-18 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range. Massenat led the Dragons with 19 points, while Fouch and Allen added 18 points apiece.
The Tribe will have a week away from action before traveling Delaware on Wednesday, Jan. 15. Tip-off from the Bob Carpenter Center in Newark, Del., is slated for 7 p.m. Fans can catch the action over the Tribe Radio Network with Jay Colley 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 be heard on TribeAtheletics.com.