Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Following layoff, W&M unable to find any rhythm in 75-54 loss to Elon

(Courtesy William & Mary)
(Courtesy William & Mary)

The excuse was there if he chose to use it. But William & Mary coach Dane Fischer knows that his wasn’t the first team in the Colonial Athletic Association, or the nation for that matter, that was forced to take a multi-week pause for COVID-19 reasons.

Playing for the first time since Jan. 31, the Tribe came out flat in a 75-54 home loss to Elon Saturday afternoon. The Phoenix hit eight of its first 10 shots from the 3-point arc and led by double digits for the final 34½ minutes.

Just before its pause, W&M had its best weekend of the season with a two-game sweep at Towson. After the layoff — and missing starting forward Quinn Blair, who had a death in his family — the Tribe (6-8, 4-5) never shook the rust.

“That was a tough game for us,” Fischer said. “Give Elon a lot of credit, they played really well. We certainly struggled coming back from a long layoff and never got into a rhythm. We never really made it that difficult for Elon this afternoon.

“We talked coming into it that we weren’t going to make any excuses of who was available and how long our layoff was. We’re just going to talk about turning the page and getting ourselves ready to go on Monday (at Elon).”

With William & Mary’s loss on Saturday, CAA teams coming off at least a two-week pause are 2-6 in their first game back. Among the six losses is Elon, which after not playing for 26 days lost 66-43 at Delaware.

Elon (5-8, 2-7) shot 51 percent from the field and was 10-of-20 from the 3-point arc. The Tribe made only 33 percent of its attempts and was 6-of-27 from deep.

Only Connor Kochera was able to produce offensively with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting. It was the freshman’s third consecutive game with at least 20 points.

“He showed some toughness and tried to will us to get going a couple of times,” Fischer said. “He’s become really productive for us. Not his most efficient day, but he was certainly productive.”

Much like last year’s CAA quarterfinal loss to Elon, the game couldn’t have started much worse for William & Mary. Elon led 12-2 less than five minutes in and 20-4 with 13:04 left in the first half. It was 32-11 at the under-8 timeout.

“We started the game by forcing a shot-clock violation, which is a very good defensive possession,” Fischer said. “When they started to make shots and get on a roll, we were just a little bit late and we didn’t quite close out with the effort and urgency we needed to.”

The Phoenix led 44-23 at halftime behind a combined 32 points from guards Darius Burford and Ikenna Ndugba, who together came in averaging less than half that per game. Burford finished with 27 points, 15 more than his career high. Ndugba, a graduate transfer from Bryant University, had a season-high 20.

Elon barely needed need Hunter McIntosh, last year’s CAA Rookie of the Year, who finished with a season-low five points on 2-of-7 shooting.

“To hold McIntosh to five was great,” Fischer said. “The other two guards have been role guys for them, but they obviously had career days today. I would say that production surprised me.”

Margin-wise, it was the Tribe’s worst defeat since an 82-58 loss at Drexel on Jan. 16. The following day, W&M came out a different team and pulled off a 69-64 win.

“We’ve showed the ability to bounce back and be ready to go,” Fischer said. “It’s a new game when we go down there and play on Monday. We’ll look at things we can correct and get ourselves in the right place mentally.”

Asked if he expects Blair, the Tribe’s third-leading scorer and top rebounder, to play Monday night at Elon, Fischer responded, “We’re hopeful.”

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