That is not the way I expected this game to go, but I will take a 14 point win against a team I thought the Dukes would lose to 61% of the time or worse. The Dukes looked considerably more advanced than I thought they would while working in ten new bodies. I was expecting a general lack of chemistry, but a 19 assists to 9 turnover ratio tells me this is a pretty cohesive unit. I’m very excited to see what they look like when they do gel. Some freshman played like juniors and the two key players from last year didn’t have to shine brightly for the Dukes to win big against a decent team. For some perspective, I think William and Mary would win 8-9 games and finish in the top 8 if they played in this year’s A-10.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a game recap like this so bare with me please. I’m trying to get it as close to the old ones as I can.
Player of the Game
We put it to a poll on the @wewearthering1 twitter feed, and the crowd declared that Austin Rotroff earned player of the game honors. I agree his debut was spectacular. He showed great polish at both ends of the floor for a freshman, but I personally gave the honor to another whose stats may not scream player of the game. From the opening tip to the end of the game, Sincere Carry controlled the contest. His passing was precise, his defense very good and he managed to chip in some buckets at crucial moments. 7 points and 9 assists doesn’t look amazing on paper, but the zero turnovers was incredible. He did nothing to hurt the team and his composure was beyond a reasonably expected level for a player making his NCAA debut.
A huge part of why Carry was my player of the game stems from the fact that he stole momentum back from William and Mary out of the break. After the Tribe jumped out to a two point lead in the second half, Mike Lewis II tied it up and Carry ran off back to back hoops to put the foot back on their throat and quickly reverse momentum.
When I Knew It Was Over
William and Mary pulled to fifteen with 6:22 remaining in the game on a quick 7-2 run. On the ensuring trip down the floor, the Dukes ran off almost a minute of clock thanks to a foul called against Eric Williams Jr and a huge offensive rebounds. Mike Hughes capped the possession going 1 for 2 at the line and extending the lead back to 6 possessions.
Credit Where It’s Due
The Tribe’s two headed monster of Nathan Knight and Justin Pierce did some serious work. Folks in my section were aware of #23 (Pierce) for most of the second half and the pair combined for 65% percent of William and Mary’s offense.
What We Learned
To be clear, this is new. However, in a season where we knew such little about the team heading into the year, I think it’s important to learn something about the team every game. I’m stealing what I learned today from friend of WWTR and poster on the Duquesne board host message board, grammudder. He noted that Keith Dambrot has a much shorter leash with players when they make a mistake and I agreed completely. For example, Mike Hughes had a great first half, but he struggled at both ends for the first 5 minutes of the second half. As a result, he sat for a long stretch. Real depth gives the coaching staff leverage with players to increase performance or decrease playing time. Something can give in 2018-19.
The Dukes jumped 20 positions in early kenpom tonight climbing the ranks as blow outs against higher ranked teams ought to. As 70 points allowed would indicate, the defense maybe looked better than it performed, but thankfully they shot the lights out. I can’t say enough how surprised I was with the chemistry of this team on both ends of the floor. Were there some bad passes and decisions on offense? Yes. Were there some missed rotations on defense? Yes again, but not nearly as many as I would have expected in both categories.
However, I do want to note that just because the team was more polished than I expected, it doesn’t mean that they won’t gel and continue to get better. I still think the overall performance will improve as players learn to play better with one another. That just moves the curve up beyond where I had it to start the year. I also think some of players who didn’t sniff action tonight will get better and force their way into the rotation.