WILLIAMSBURG — It was not secured until only 1.1 seconds remained. Junior Quinn McDowell made two free throws to seal a 57-52 men's basketball victory for William and Mary over Mercer at Kaplan Arena Saturday evening.
The game was part of the Legends Classic being played on the William and Mary campus during the holiday weekend. The event concludes with two more games Sunday.
As they did on Friday, the Tribe (2-3) started the game slowly, falling behind 7-0, before coming back to tie at seven. The Bears (2-4) grabbed the lead again and the Tribe came back to tie at 13.
The Tribe took its first lead at 15-14, with 5:15 left in the first half. William and Mary dominated the remaining time in the opening half, moving to a 22-14 lead. The Tribe led at halftime, 24-17.
The first half scoring for the Tribe was led by Marcus Kitts. The 6-foot-9 senior had 12 of William and Mary's 24 points at the break. The team's advantage was fueled by the rebounding effort. The locals held a 21-14 edge in the battle of the boards at the half.
The second half beginning mirrored the first. The home team's cold shooting lasted even longer than the earlier drought. William and Mary did not score for the first 6:33 of the second half, and then McDowell drilled a 3-pointer. The Tribe trailed for much of the final half.
Kitts went to the bench with 15:04 remaining when he picked up his fourth foul. But other players picked up the slack, especially sophomore Matt Rum who hit timely free throws and a 3-pointer. Kitts returned to make a key block and nail free throws when they were really needed.
Kitts finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. The 20 points were a career high for the High Point, N.C., player, and he was named player of the game. McDowell had 14 points, JohnMark Ludwick chipped in 11 and Matt Rum scored 10. Mercer's Jeff Smith led all scorers with 23 points. Brian Mills had 13 for the Macon, Ga., college.
The game had five ties and five lead changes. The Tribe's biggest lead was nine points and Mercer's was seven. William and Mary had a 37-31 rebounding edge. The host team also led in free throws, making 18 of 25 to a 3-for-5 night for Mercer. Neither team was great with the shooting percentages. The Tribe was 38.1 from the field and the Bears shot 33.9. William and Mary had 16 turnovers and Mercer, 11.
The contest matched the two winning teams from Friday's games. The event is set up with a round-robin format and each team will face all the others. William and Mary had never played any of the three visiting clubs before this weekend.
William and Mary coach Tony Shaver said, "We found a way to win. We played better than we did on Friday. We made it a little tougher on ourselves than we needed to at times. We know that Western Carolina will be ready for us tomorrow and we will have to play hard."
Kitts was pleased with his play and said, "I am most excited about the free throws." He was four of seven from the line.
Gardner-Webb (4-3) won Saturday's first game 71-65 over Western Carolina (2-4). Gardner-Webb plays Mercer at 2 p.m. Sunday, and William and Mary faces Western Carolina at 4:30. The Tribe is the only team with a 2-0 record in the classic.