Monday, November 28, 2011
W&M's perimeter players struggled from the outset with Howard's defensive pressure in halfcourt sets, with several lazy passes becoming turnovers and easy buckets. With two sophomores (Brandon Britt and Julian Boatner) and a freshman (Marcus Thornton) carrying a big part of the ball-handling load, a certain amount of inefficiency is expected, but W&M's passivity on offense wasn't.
Thornton's got a ton of athletic ability (he almost hit his head on the rim on a late, ill-advised drive to the basket that resulted in a charging call), and he's more capable of getting his own shot than any William & Mary player in recent memory. Right now, though, his individual talent hasn't meshed with Tony Shaver's disciplined system, which results in a lot of one-on-one play that leaves a bunch of teammates standing around. We'd like to see Thornton playing off the ball more, using his athleticism to free himself up for easy looks - the offense stagnates when he's at the point.
It's fashionable these days to downplay the importance of team chemistry, especially since we can't measure it. While I'm as hip to the value of tempo-free stats as the next guy, this Tribe team sure seems to be suffering from an identity crisis that's hard to understand with numbers alone. Case in point: Tribe star Quinn McDowell's performance against Howard, which was one of the most bizarre disappearing acts we've seen. Entering the game with a team-leading 13.5 ppg, McDowell didn't take a shot until less than four minutes remained in the contest, finishing with a single point, four rebounds, and three turnovers in 33 oddly silent minutes. We've praised McDowell's unselfishness in the past, but if any game warranted a "give me the ball and get the fuck out of my way" moment from the Tribe's best player, it was this one - and he'd done just that in leading the Tribe to a win over Liberty in their most recent game. McDowell's play combined with the backcourt's 8-for-31 marksmanship testified to an uncertainty and lack of offensive purpose we haven't seen in the past three seasons.
On the bright side, and there certainly was one, Tim Rusthoven returned to the court for the first time this season and was the best player on the court in his 21 minutes. Beasthoven scored an efficient 13 points (4-5 from the field, 5-6 from the line), grabbed a team-leading 6 boards, blocked a shot and recorded a pair of steals. He also hit the floor at least three times in pursuit of loose balls, providing the only spark W&M delivered all afternoon.
As the great MGL noted in response to my tweeted frustration about the Tribe's 1-6 start, "It would be more frustrating in January". And so we continue to believe our motto, "In Shaver We Trust", and expect the Tribe to figure out what ails them. Getting JohnMark Ludwick back to extend the opposition's post defense would be a nice start, though he looked fairly uncomfortable in his walking boot on Saturday.
W&M takes on Richmond on Wednesday, a prospect that seems daunting from where we sit today, before opening CAA play on the road against improving Georgia State.