After a season full of heartbreak and close losses, William and Mary wasn't going out like that on the year's biggest stage.
Junior guard Quinn McDowell set a Colonial Athletic Association tournament single-game scoring record with a career-high 35 points as the 11th-seeded Tribe upset sixth seed James Madison 72-68 in Friday's first round at the Richmond Coliseum.
"I guess players talk about being in the zone," said McDowell, who was 10-of-12 from the floor, 5-of-6 from 3-point range and 10-of-11 from the free-throw line. "I didn't really even know I was in the zone until I looked up and I had 30."
McDowell's virtuoso performance gave the Tribe (10-21) its sixth CAA tournament win in the last four years, tied with VCU for most such victories, and set up a meeting at 8:30 p.m. Saturday with Hofstra. The Tribe dropped two games by a total of six points to the Pride, including an 81-78 overtime loss on Feb. 15 on CAA player of the year Charles Jenkins' 35-foot heave at the buzzer.
William and Mary coach Tony Shaver said his team hasn't given much thought to a second-round opponent, but devised an on-the-spot strategy.
"We're going to put five guys on Jenkins and somebody else is going to have to score," Shaver said.
That may have been JMU's best option on Friday, as McDowell proved virtually unstoppable. He had 15 points in the first half, and his deep 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down gave William and Mary a 54-51 lead with 9:07 to play in the second.
He hit another 3 with 7:53 to play to put the Tribe up 59-55, then a one-handed runner to keep the lead at four at 65-61 with 4:10 to play.
McDowell also made two free throws after JMU coach Matt Brady got a quick technical with 2:51 to play, and his free throw with 6.6 seconds to go, after a pair of empty Dukes offensive possessions, sealed the victory.
"Quinn McDowell was awesome," Brady said. "We lost to a team that I think had been playing great toward the end of the season. They played great, and their best player played tremendous."
JMU's best player, 6-10 senior forward Denzel Bowles, had just five points on 2-of-3 shooting and two rebounds. The first-team all-CAA pick came into the game averaging 18.2 and nine, respectively.
"You've got to stop him if you're going to beat James Madison," Shaver said.
Bowles had two fouls and no points at halftime, when the score was tied at 34.
Julius Wells' 3-pointer pulled the Dukes (21-11) within 67-66 with 2:03 to play, and JMU went up 68-67 on Devon Moore's driving bucket with 1:32 remaining. But Tribe freshman guard Brandon Britt was fouled in the lane and calmly made both free throws with 27 seconds to play to return the lead to the Tribe for good.
"Before I stepped to the line, Coach told me to shoot them with confidence, so I stepped to the line and knocked them down," said Britt, who finished with 11 points.
The Tribe fell into an early four-point deficit in the second half, but back-to-back 3-pointers from McDowell and Britt gave William and Mary a 40-38 lead. A quick 7-0 Dukes run then put JMU, which made five of its first eight second-half shots, up 45-40 and forced a Tribe timeout with 15:33 to play.
The Tribe got an early lift from junior guard Kendrix Brown, who had lost his starting job but got the nod on Friday and hit William and Mary's first basket, a turnaround hook, and came up with a steal that led to Julian Boatner's layup and an 8-4 Tribe lead.Brown finished with nine rebounds, all on the defensive end, including one that led to Britt's late free throws. "Man rebounds," Shaver called them.
"I think we had confidence in that ballgame," said Shaver, whose team played ODU last year for the CAA tournament title. " We've been good in this tournament in recent years. I thought we would walk on the floor with some inner arrogance tonight, and we did."