William and Mary coach Tony Shaver believes his team, as presently constructed, performs better in games following several days of practice than with quick turnarounds and brief preparation.
Exhibits A and B are the two games against VCU, when the Tribe took one of the CAA's best teams to the wire and could have won both, after three and four days of prep work, respectively.
Exhibit C is the Tribe's first game against Old Dominion, a 68-44 loss. That meeting was the last of a 5 games-in-10 day span and less than 48 hours after a loss at James Madison. W&M absorbed an early punch and fought back to tie that afternoon at the Ted, but was outmuscled and outscored 48-24 over the final 30 minutes.
Shaver hopes a few days of prep work pay off when the Tribe hosts ODU on Wednesday (7 p.m.) at Kaplan Arena in their second meeting.
"I guess we'll find out if I know what I'm talking about," Shaver joked. "Their zone (defense) is difficult to play against. They played man(-to-man defense) against us, as well, but I think they hurt us more with the zone. Hopefully, we'll be a little better prepared to attack it, a little better prepared to put ourselves in the right defensive position to block out and get some defensive rebounds. But time will tell."
The Tribe (4-21, 2-11 CAA) and ODU (15-10, 10-3 CAA) are at opposite ends of the conference spectrum. The Monarchs look to bounce back after Saturday's loss at George Mason and to remain close to the trio at the top of the league, while W&M aims to snap an eight-game losing streak and to manufacture some confidence as the tournament approaches.
ODU has won the last eight in the series, the past five by an average of 17 points.
"I think they manhandled us pretty good, frankly," Shaver said of the first game. "We've got to find a way to do two things: one is to rebound the ball better against them, which not a lot of teams have had success doing; we really got hurt with their second shots in that basketball game.
"The second thing is, we've got to shoot the ball better. We're going to see zone from them, or at least some zone. They've done a good job of mixing up their defenses this year. But we'll certainly see some zone against them, and we're going to have to do a better job of attacking that zone and making shots when we get the opportunity to shoot it."
In the first game, ODU had a 35-21 rebound edge, which included 13 offensive boards and 13 second-chance points. The Tribe shot just 33 percent from the field, and 1-for-9 from 3-point range, in the second half.
"I think William and Mary played a good game against us," ODU coach Blaine Taylor said. "I just think they got caught on a night where we played awfully good, and we were at home in front of a sold-out crowd.
"Now, you turn the tables and you go on the road. William and Mary and this rivalry has a lot of history. They've always taken the game seriously and then of course at home, they take it even more seriously. We've got to match that intentness. ... We better expect they're going to play well."
In CAA games, the Monarchs are third in scoring defense (55.7) and field goal percentage defense (.374) and second in 3-point defense (.270). They offset their own occasionally spotty shooting (.409) with a 41.2-percent offensive rebounding rate, far and away tops in the league.
William and Mary put up some points in its two losses last week -- 78 against VCU, 68 against UNC Wilmington -- but the performances were disjointed. Guards Marcus Thornton and Brandon Britt combined for 47 points against VCU, while Quinn McDowell and Tim Rusthoven combined for 15 points and shot 5-for-15. At UNCW, McDowell and Rusthoven combined for 43 points, but the Tribe guards were a collective 5-for-27 from the field and 1-for-13 from 3.
Despite a solid group of perimeter shooters, the Tribe is next-to-last in scoring offense in CAA games (58.2) and third from the bottom in shooting (.398). McDowell and Thornton are the only players shooting above 30 percent from 3-point range, though both are below 40 percent.
That's why opponents have had success playing zone defense against the Tribe, as well as man-to-man. ODU's zone, with 6-4 Donte Hill at the top and 6-5 Kent Bazemore and 6-3 Trian Iliadis on the wings, is more challenging than most.
"I think it's their length, their athleticism," Shaver said. "They have great recovery time. And honestly, we haven't shot the ball well all year long. Our statistics are not very good, particularly at the guard spots. ... We have not shot the ball at the clip we thought we would as the season progressed."
From the Tarpit: William and Mary prepares to host Old Dominion on Wednesday
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