By no means had William & Mary played a clean first half. Yet somehow, the Tribe trailed Drexel by only five points.
Things could have been worse. And that’s how things got in the second half as the Dragons seemingly ran lay-up drills on their way to a 79-64 win Saturday afternoon at Kaplan Arena.
Drexel shot 68 percent in the second half and 60 percent for the game. W&M was unable to match that with 39-percent shooting and 14 trips to the free throw line — 15 fewer than six days earlier in a 69-64 win over the Dragons in Philadelphia.
“We really didn’t have the right kind of focus level coming into today,” Tribe coach Dane Fischer said. “Really on both ends of the floor, but especially on offense. I thought in the first half, we really took a lot of tough, contested shots.
“Defensively, early on we were pretty good, but we were giving up stuff we talked about not giving up in scouting. As the game wore on, we got a little worse with that. Not our best performance, but plenty we can learn from. I told the guys afterwards, this was another chance to compete and get better.”
In comparing the final statistics, the significant difference was shooting percentages. Drexel had a slight advantage in rebounding (32-28) and 3-point shooting (6-of-19 to 5-of-21). Free throws (Dragons 11-of-13, Tribe 11-of-14) and turnovers (Drexel 12, W&M 10) were a wash.
Here’s a telling stat: Drexel was 16-of-20 on point-blank shots while W&M was 14-of-29.
“Our whole goal was not to give them ones around the rim like that,” Fischer said. “I think they got there in transition, and (Camren) Wynter got there in the half-court a few times. And their bigs got some dump-offs and offensive rebounds.
“A lot of our shots around the rim were contested. We took some that were just a little bit early where if we would have just kept (the possession) going a little bit, we’d have a chance to get a little better look.”
Still, it was a 37-32 game at halftime. And when Covington turned a steal into a transition layup just over a minute into the second half, the Tribe trailed 37-35.
Wynter immediately answered with a 3-pointer, which ignited what would become an 11-3 run. Drexel led by double digits for the final 11:24.
In last Sunday’s win at Philadelphia, the Tribe held Wynter to four points on 2-of-8 shooting (though he did have 11 assists). At Kaplan on Saturday, Wynter finished with 19 points (8-of-12) and four assists.
“We wanted to make sure we committed to him as much as we possibly could and try to make him make passes out to other guys,” Fischer said. “We certainly didn’t do nearly as good a job on that. I thought he was more aggressive today.
“When we put two guys on him, he kept the ball alive a little bit more than he did last time. He was more willing to pass when we played (last) Sunday. But there were also plenty of times he was in space by himself and one other guy, and that was not a good recipe for us today.”
Drexel was a last-minute replacement on W&M’s schedule. The Tribe was scheduled to play a two-game set against Charleston, but COVID-19 issues within the Cougars’ program led to a postponement.
Even with Saturday’s loss, Fischer was glad to get a game in this weekend.
“The way this year is going, you’re going to get these bizarre situations,” he said. “Charleston got shut down, and Drexel was supposed to go to Elon (which also has COVID issues), so it made sense for us to play. I was glad we were able to compete today.”