NORFOLK – Best-case scenario for William and Mary against Old Dominion: take care of the ball; milk the shot clock; hit a bunch of 3-pointers; a Monarchs' shooting clang-fest that carries the game to the final minutes.
What transpired at Saturday's early-bird special at the Constant Center was much more a best-case scenario for the Monarchs.
ODU ground the Tribe into a fine paste with a dominant inside game, defensive length, attention to detail and shotmaking. The Monarchs' 68-44 win nicely capped a 3-0 week and the end of the CAA's five games-in-10 days grind.
"We called this week 'Separation Week,'|" ODU's Donte Hill said. "We played all these games against a lot of teams we haven't played and some teams we're going to see later on in the season. This week was just to separate ourselves from them and kind of move ourselves away from the middle of the pack and make sure we stay at the top."
One week after getting kneecapped at VCU, the Monarchs (14-9, 9-2 CAA) find themselves in a three-way tie for second in the conference with Drexel and the Rams, one game back of leader George Mason. The second-place trio is three games clear of fifth-place Georgia State.
"It doesn't get much better than that," ODU coach Blaine Taylor said. "Sold-out house, rivalry, and an awfully good performance. … I thought that we just wore into them through the course of the evening and wore them down with multiple players and multiple tactics and eventually got the better of them by a pretty good margin."
Forward Chris Cooper (14 points, nine rebounds) led a balanced effort in which 10 players scored and grabbed rebounds and eight players came up with steals. The Monarchs punished W&M on the boards (35-21) and shot 52 percent from the field, 12 points better than their average in CAA games. It was just the third time this season in which they made half of their shots; the other two were against previously winless Towson.
Meanwhile, the Tribe (4-19, 2-9 CAA) lost its sixth in a row and failed to hit 50 points for the third consecutive game. Save for a five-minute stretch of the first half, W&M struggled against the Monarchs' man-to-man and zone defenses.
"We felt the two things that were key to this ball game, coming into it," W&M coach Tony Shaver said, "No. 1 was to keep them off the glass. We're not going to out-rebound this team, but we have to hold our own, and we didn't do a very good job of that.
"And then turnovers really hurt us. There had to be four or five – we call them 'pick-sixes' – just poor passes, poor receptions of the ball that led to dunks on the other end. Those were two things we felt we had to control and we didn't do a very good of it."
Quinn McDowell (15 points) led the Tribe, which managed just six field goals and 16 points in the second half. Only four Tribe players scored in the first 35 minutes, and second-leading scorer Marcus Thornton finished with one point and just four shot attempts.
"We didn't make very many shots," McDowell said, "and that, combined with the turnovers, I think … they did a good job defensively, but we also shot ourselves in the foot a ton by not making open shots, not taking open shots.
"I think you can go down the list, starting with myself, probably passed up on a few open looks that we should have taken. Against this defense, you need to take the looks that you're given because they do such a good job of making you take difficult ones, so when you get open ones you have to take them."
The Monarchs jumped out to a 12-0 lead, but the Tribe fought back and eventually caught ODU at 20 behind a 3-point barrage. W&M was within 34-28 late in the half, but the Monarchs gained separation with six second-chance points in the final minute-and-a-half to open a 40-28 lead.
ODU opened the second half with a 10-4 run, the last two baskets Cooper follow shots, for a 50-32 lead. The final 13 minutes were academic.
"If we do get on a team, sometimes we let them back in the game," Hill said. "I think today we did a good job of just smothering them when they were down and making 'dagger' plays and making sure they couldn't come back."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun