‘A tale of two halves,’ is a common adage in the game of basketball but Sunday’s Colonial Athletic Association Quarterfinal between William & Mary and Delaware epitomized the phrase.
The Tribe owned the first half, but the Blue Hens rallied behind 3-point sharp-shooting in the final 20 minutes to advance to the semifinals, 85-79, at the North Charleston Coliseum.
The Tribe (14-17) jumped out to as much as a 16-point first-half lead behind a sizzling 69.2 percent (18-of-26) shooting. At one point, the Green and Gold went over six minutes without missing a shot, a streak of 11-straight made field goals, and led 45-31 at the half. Juniors Justin Pierce (16), Nathan Knight (11) and Matt Milon (10) combined for 37 of the Tribe’s 45 first-half points, connecting on 15-of-22 as a group.
Delaware caught fire from long range in the final 20 minutes to erase the deficit. As a team, the Blue Hens connected on 10-of-15 from long range led by the guard duo of Ryan Allen and Ithiel Horton. The tandem combined for 37 second-half points on 8-of-10 from distance.
Allen, who was limited to just two points in the first half, erupted for 21 in the final 20 minutes. He scored 11 points during the Blue Hens game-changing 16-1 run in the second half, including back-to-back 3-pointers to give UD the lead for good, its first advanced since 56 seconds into the game at 3-2.
W&M tried to rally late with cutting into an eight-point UD lead with an 8-2 run. Pierce started the stretch with top-of-the-key 3-pointer and Milon canned a right-wing triple to close the deficit to 81-79 with 43 seconds remaining. On the ensuing UD possession, the Tribe pressured in the halfcourt but Delaware’s Darian Bryant knocked down the dagger from the right wing with just 17 seconds left.
Pierce turned in a season-high 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-8 from 3-point range, and a perfect 5-of-5 at the free throw line. He just missed a double-double finishing with nine rebounds and five assists. Knight flirted with a triple-double tallying 21 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high seven assists to go with four blocked shots.
Horton finished with 26 points for the Blue Hens, while Allen added 23.
How It Happened
– After a Horton 3-point briefly put the Blue Hens on top less than a minute into the game, W&M ripped off a 10-0 run to gain control. Pierce highlighted the run scoring five points and assisting on two more W&M baskets. His triple from the left wing at the 15:32 mark gave the Green and Gold a 12-3 lead.
– A personal 5-0 Pierce run extended the Tribe margin to double-digits for the first time. After a short jumper in the lane, he converted a free-throw-line floater and was fouled. Pierce completed the old-fashion 3-point play pushing W&M’s lead to 25-13 with 7:51 remaining in the first.
– Over a 6:10 stretch in the first half, the Tribe hit 11-straight shots and the lead ballooned to 14 on four occasions. The final of the 11-straight stretch, a Pierce floater from the left side, extended the lead to 40-26 with 2:52 left.
– The margin reached as much as 16, 45-29, on a pair of Paul Rowley free throws with 1:09 remaining in the half. In total, the Tribe shot 69.2 percent (18-of-26) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
– Delaware scored seven of the first eight points of the second half to slash the Tribe lead to eight. Allen and Eric Carter converted lay-ups before a left corner 3-pointer from Kevin Anderson cut the gap to 46-38 at the 17:56 mark.
– A 7-2 Tribe run pushed the lead back to double-digits. Pierce answered the UD run with a 3-pointer before sophomore Luke Loewe drove the left side of the lane for a lay-up, giving W&M a 53-40 lead four and a half minutes into the second half.
– Back-to-back Horton 3-pointers cut the Tribe advantage to 58-52 with 12:14 remaining in the second half.
– The Tribe answered with six in a row to reestablish a double-digit lead. Loewe provided the big blow during the quick spurt with a right-wing 3-pointer. Pierce added the final two at the line to extend the lead to 64-52 with 10:29 left.
– Delaware took its first lead since 3-2 with an 18-2 run. Allen scored 11 of the Hens 18 points during the run. UD hit four-straight 3-pointers during the stretch, including back-to-back Allen triples to put the Blue Hen in front 68-65 with 6:54 left. Darian Bryant capped the spurt with a floater in the lane to give UD a four-point lead.
– After an L.J. Owen’s 3-point closed the gap to one, 70-69, the Hens extend its lead to eight with a 9-2 run. Allen (5) and Horton (4) scored all nine points during the spurt, including the final five from Allen to push the lead to 79-71 on a pair of free throws at the 3:05 mark.
– The Tribe pulled within two with less than a minute remaining. Pierce knocked down a triple before Knight added a pair of free throws at the 1:12 mark. After Anderson hit a pair of free throws for the Blue Hens, Milon connected a right-wing 3-pointer to narrow the margin to 81-79 with 43 seconds remaining.
– Bryant provided the dagger for the Blue Hens. As the Tribe pressured in the half court for a turnover, Bryant ended up with the ball on the right wing and the senior guard hit the back-breaking triple with 17 ticks remaining.
Inside the Numbers
– W&M shot 69.2 percent (18-of-26) in the opening 20 minutes but cooled in the second half to finish at 50 percent (26-of-52) overall.
– Delaware canned 10-of-15 from 3-point range in the second half to finish the game at 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) overall.
– The Blue Hens shot 52.7 percent (29-of-55) from the field, including 55.2 percent (16-of-29) in the second half.
– W&M dished out 18 assists on its 26 made field goals and only turned the ball over seven times.
– The Tribe connected on 81.8 percent (18-of-22) at the charity stripe compared to 13-of-18 (72.2 percent) for Delaware.
The loss snapped the Tribe’s five-game win streak to close the regular season … It also ended a stretch of five-straight semifinal appearances for the Green and Gold … W&M head coach Tony Shaver became the all-time leader in CAA Tournament games coached with his 30th on Sunday … Junior Nathan Knight recorded his 12th double-double of the season, the most for a W&M player since 1987-88 … Knight’s 21 points increased his season total to 651, which ranks fourth in program history … Knight dished out a career-high seven assists, which tied a W&M CAA Tournament record … Knight tallied four blocked shots, which was the second most for a Tribe player in the CAA Tournament … Junior Justin Pierce scored a season-high 26 points … It brought his career total to 980 and just 20 points shy of 1,000 for his career … Junior Matt Milon hit a trio of 3-pointers on the afternoon pushing his season total to 89, which is tied for fifth on W&M’s single-season list … The Tribe knocked down nine 3-pointers, which increased its season total to 254, which ranks seventh school history.