Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This Week in Wrenball

With 8:04 remaining in W&M's game against Delaware, and the Tribe trailing by 8, freshman Marcus Thornton drove the lane, elevated, and cocked his arm back with malicious intent. Delaware's Jamelle Hagins, a 6'9", 240-pound sophomore who averages 2.6 blocks per game, rose to meet him. As the 6'3" Thornton's hammer dunk attempt crashed against the back of the rim and rebounded high in the air, I leapt from my couch with an audible gasp.

Thornton's missed dunk was notable not for the result, but for its sheer audacity. Never in my 23 years as a Tribe fan (dear, sweet God in heaven - 23 years?) have I ever seen a W&M player even contemplate such a play. It was at once thrilling for what it portends and sobering for what it illustrates about the Tribe's current state of affairs.

The CAA recognized Thornton as the conference Rookie of the Week after he averaged 19.3 points in a trio of Tribe games. He's now the team's leading scorer, tallying 15.5 points per game in CAA play, and 12.1 ppg in all games. He's without question the most athletic player I've ever seen in W&M's green and gold. And for a long stretch of this season, he and his teammates had no idea what to make of each other.

Throughout much of W&M's 2-11 start, we were baffled by the Tribe's poor shooting, confused by the lack of offensive efficiency they displayed. We fretted about Quinn McDowell's lack of aggression and Brandon Britt's erratic play and worried about injuries to Kyle Gaillard and JohnMark Ludwick. We enjoyed Thornton's explosiveness even as we shook our head as too many of his frequent wild forays into the lane yielded circus misses.

Then, four games ago, Tony Shaver inserted Thornton into the starting lineup. W&M only won one of those four, but the team that had lost its previous four contests against Division I opponents by an average of 29.8 points suddenly found confidence, beating James Madison before playing George Mason and Delaware close until the final minutes. Thornton's shot selection has improved along with his defense, and the entire team's body language. They're still a work in progress, giving up too many turnovers and not creating enough, while lacking a real inside presence, but a season that once appeared to be a complete loss offers a glimmer of hope. If nothing else, we get to witness the Education of Marcus Thornton, a story that'll give us a lot of reasons to cheer.

We'll measure the Wrens' progress tonight against one of the nation's lousiest teams. Towson set an NCAA record by losing its 35th consecutive game on Saturday, as ODU drummed the Tigers, 75-38. Drexel beat them, 60-27, in Towson's previous game. First-year coach Pat Skerry's team has lost all but 3 of their 16 games by double digits, and Skerry hasn't minced words in describing his team's inadequacies. It's bizarre to call this a must-win, but if the Tribe is going to salvage a decent conference season, tonight's game in Towson is critical. A win gives W&M a 2-3 record heading to Boston to take on a capable but beatable Northeastern team. A loss - an inexplicable, deflating, momentum-killing loss - may send the Tribe reeling.

In Shaver we trust. We're not losing this one.

37 comments:

T.J. said...

A loss tonight would be a traveshamockery of the highest order.

rob said...

happy birthday to shlara - hope you're doing something that doesn't involve igor leering at you. again.

Marls said...

Saying it right now...Thornton transfers after this season.

Happy birthday Shlara!!!

rob said...

fuck you, marls

rob said...

for putting words to my greatest fear, tribe version

T.J. said...

I will nicely ask him not to transfer on twitter. That should work, right?

T.J. said...

That picture is awesome.

zman said...

Bobby Hebert's given name is Bobby? The south is funny.

Squeaky said...

Good to see a packed house at the Hall.

rob said...

can you imagine how badass that picture would be if he actually flushed the dunk?

rob said...

i also love the expressions on the two white guys in the picture. you can almost see the thought bubbles: "holy shit! there's no way i could do that!"

Igor said...

Was a foul called?

rob said...

no foul. w&m got the rebound, scored to cut the deficit to 6. and then lost.

Igor said...

And Happy Birthday, Shlara. Here's to having birthday drinks and birthday fun with birthday friends in your birthday suit.

Shlara said...

Thanks boys for the nice bday wishes. I'm hoping the Tribe is inspired by the Bullets win from last night and gets their first W in the CAA tonight.

And Marls...stop with the negativity about W&M hoops--Thornton isn't going anywhere.

T.J. said...

Shlara, don't sell the Tribe short...they do have one conference "W".

zman said...

Hey Danimal, the Mike Mularkey era in Jacksonville will be awesome. If you're lucky he'll coax Kelly Holcomb out of retirement.

Dennis said...

To put a little teeth into the Marls prognostication (and scare Rob just a little more), the assistant coach who recruited him (and sole reason I'm convinced he's even at W&M) left the Tribe at the end of last year to take an assistant job at VCU. Oh, and as a kick in the nuts, take a guess as to who this coach's agent is?

Et tu, DLC, et tu?

T.J. said...

Fuck.

zman said...

I don't want my teeth in any part of Marls.

rob said...

agreed with dennis' take, but would point out that shaver added kotie kimble in the offseason - a young, charismatic, african-american coach - to fill the void left by jamion christian (the coach who went to vcu). one of kimble's primary jobs has to be building a bond with thornton.

rob said...

dlc is also shaver's agent, so he has an interest in watching his guy's back.

rob said...

wonder how that conversation went:

dlc: soooo, tony, remember when jamion used to be your assistant coach? that was awesome.

shaver: wait, what?

Igor said...

You rarely see "shaver" and "back" in the same comment here at GTB when it's not talking about TR.

Igor said...

So, you have to like Raiders owner Mark Davis, if only for his pumpkin-pie haircutted tribute to Lloyd Christmas. Seriously. What is that 'do?

rob said...

tribe favored by 4.5. danimal, you know what to do.

Mark said...

Happy Birthday Shlara. Enjoy the Rose-Wall duel tonight.

rob said...

look at mark with the thoughtful gift

Squeaky said...

There should be a mass buy-in for OBFT for this shirt: http://goo.gl/nFEja

T.J. said...

No chance this game is on TV tonight, right?

Squeaky said...

Anyone know why #iloveBieberClitoris is trending on twitter?

Shlara said...

Teej--you can catch Caribbean cricket on ESPN3 tonight, but sadly not the Wrens

Danimal said...

Ok. I own an interest in the wrens. I kind of need this one.

zman said...

God bless the fOlks who sell beer in penn station.

rob said...

danimal down 10.5 at the u4 timeout. not to worry. in shaver we trust.

rob said...

gtb jinx? thornton is 0-for-1 with 3 turnovers at halftime.

rob said...

there you go, danimal. wrens by 17. thornton with 4, but quinn mcdowell with 26.