@batogato says something about the quality of this team that I'm pissed we are going to lose. No moral victories.I received that Tweet in the waning moments of the Tribe's 73-66 loss at Purdue. It encapsulates perfectly my feeling about both the game and the 2012-13 edition of the Green and Gold.
— T Marls (@KingmanKong) December 29, 2012
W&M led Purdue, 40-39, at halftime, and only several difficult makes by the Boilers in the half's final possessions made it that close. The Tribe overcame a sloppy start to outplay the bigger, more acclaimed Big Ten foe, shooting 60% from the floor and making half of their 10 three-point attempts. Junior forward Kyle Gaillard was unstoppable, alternately driving for lefty floaters and making triples. Gaillard's 12 led all scorers at the break, followed closely by teammates Brandon Britt and Marcus Thornton with 11 and 10 respectively.
While the Wrens couldn't keep up the offensive pace in the second frame, they still battled the Boilers tooth and nail. Tim Rusthoven's mid-lane jumper tied the game at 58 with 8:31 left. Later, Thornton's two-pointer from the wing drew the Tribe to within 66-64 with 2:21 on the Mackey Arena clock. From there, Julian Boatner and Thornton missed three-pointers on consecutive possessions, and Purdue escaped with a home win. And dozens of Futile Superfans were left to once again lament what might have, what absolutely could have and perhaps should have been.
Thornton finished with 21, and looked entirely comfortable against power conference competition. Tim Rusthoven tallied 16 and grabbed 7 rebounds despite giving away significant size to Purdue's interior defenders. The telling story of the second half, though, was the combined zero points scored by Gaillard and Britt in the final frame. The aggression both showed in the first half paid off repeatedly - its absence in the second was glaring. This completely impartial and obviously qualified observer thinks that Tony Shaver needs to sit both down in a room and show the first half film on a loop for several hours in advance of each Tribe game. Because when Britt and Gaillard were aggressive, W&M's offense was very, very hard to stop.
More of that, please, tonight, when the Wrens travel to Nashville to play their final non-conference game against Vanderbilt. Though the Commodores have beaten Xavier this season, they've also lost by 17 to Marist, and are licking their wounds after getting curbstomped by Butler. Kevin Stallings' team is looking at an 11-day break after this contest before they start their conference schedule against Kentucky. If ever W&M sized up an SEC opponent and expected to win, it'd be this game.
I think they do expect to win. W&M's now played three major conference opponents in 2012. (For the purposes of this argument, we're counting the Atlantic 10 as a hoops major. Sue us. Or report us to Mid-Majority, whichever.) The Tribe was within two points in the final 2:30 of each of those contests. Yes, we're unrepentant Pollyannas. Yes, Vanderbilt will likely be more athletic (once again, see, Gaillard, Kyle and Britt, Brandon for keys to W&M's chances and an counter-argument to the athleticism point), and probably bigger. But the 'Dores are young - they've only got one junior and no seniors on their roster - they don't shoot very well (41.8% on the year), and they're coming off back to back humbling losses (they fell to Middle Tennessee State before being drilled by Butler).
So the Tribe should expect to win.
And I think they will.
One of these days, I'll be right about something. Why not now?