Taking Care of Business
When the William & Mary Tribe came to town for a pre-Christmas tête-à-tête, the Cavaliers did what the #5 team in the nation should do when the #70 offense and #310 defense show up: beat them by 32 points. What was interesting about the contest was that the Hoos had an easier time defending the Tribe than scoring on them: holding them to 40 points while going through some embarrassing stretches of offense that allowed the visitors to cut a 17-point lead down to 6 early in the second half.
After the visitors took a 6-5 early lead largely because they have an excellent big man in 6-10 Nathan Knight (who would make an intriguing grad transfer prospect), the Cavaliers steamrolled them 20-2 over the next 26 possessions and that seemed to be that. The ACC power held a 25-8 lead over its visiting CAA opponent and would cruise to the expected 82-50 victory, with late game stars Grant Kersey and Austin Katstra entertaining the home crowd again.
Then Ty Jerome got in foul trouble, and that happy holiday scenario dissipated. The Hoos were up 27-12 with 4:35 in the half when Jerome picked up his second foul. They would only score 7 more points the rest of the half, two of them on a pair of free throws by Kyle Guy when W&M's Justin Pierce punched him in the throat while trying to convert a fast break layup. Shockingly against precedent, these ACC refs decided that was, indeed, a foul. During this same stretch, the Tribe's offense suddenly came alive for 11 points and they were able to go into the locker room down only 11.
In truth, though, the offensive inefficiency began before Jerome's foul, but it was masked by the big lead and the Tribe's concurrent inability to score. After Ty Jerome's last second heave beat the shot clock for a 3-pointer with 10:35 left in the half closed out a stretch of converting on 10 of 11 offensive possessions, Virginia would score on only 4 of 16 forays into the offensive end (not counting Guy's free throws).
William & Mary continued its momentum out of the halftime with 5 points on its first two possessions sandwiching an empty Virginia possession. Pierce's long three against token pressure by Jack Salt cut the Tribe deficit to a mere 6 points, and the UMBC Effect seemed to enter the arena. It was the seventh game out of 11 this season in which the Hoos' opponent cut into a halftime lead in the first few possessions of the second half. Pierce's three-pointer appeared to galvanize Virginia, however, as the Cavaliers scored on the next three possessions while restricting W&M to two forced three point attempts, and immediately shoved the bulge back up to 13.
Virginia rolled from there, clamping down on the Tribe offense and driving into the lane repeatedly for an efficient 16 successful offensive possessions out of 22 before remanding the contest to the Green Team. William & Mary could only manage 12 points after their initial burst.
De'Andre Hunter returned to the double digit scoring ranks after a two-game slump with 18, Guy backed him up with 16, Braxton Key was perfect shooting at 3-3 from the floor and 3-3 from the line for 9 points, and Ty Jerome had 9 rebounds and 2 steals, but to me the main story was Mamadi Diakite.
After opening the season in a mental funk, Mamadi has now strung together four excellent games in a row and is playing well enough to potentially remain as a starter even when Kihei Clark is back to full strength. Although Mamadi scored just 6 points, he only had 5 shot attempts, but added 6 rebounds, 2 assists and a blocked shot in 24 strong minutes, with 0 turnovers and only two personal fouls. It was his overall floor game, particularly on defense, that stood out. He was the Glue Hoo of the Game with the 7th highest all-time Glue Index of 21. He Challenged 7 shots and had 2 each Rotations and Recoveries. His reads and movements were on point all game long. Synergy Sports recorded him as giving up points on only 3 of 13 possessions and forcing opponents to miss 9 of 12 shots. Most encouraging was his post defense against a good post scorer in Knight, which was Mamadi's best of the season.
The play of the game by Mamadi, however, was this one captured by our special correspondent Wahoo Josh:
Mamadi showed similar awareness on another play where he chased down a loose ball, attacked baseline, and passed to Jack Salt for the Wahoos' other dunk of the day.
The team is now off for Christmas break, but will return to work after the holiday to prepare for Marshall. The Thundering Herd have been a bit disappointing this season, as they entered the season with a lot of hype after upsetting Wichita State in the first round of last year's NCAA Tournament. Guards Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks were considered NBA prospects as they returned to lead the Thundering Herd. However, Marshall has been blown out by Maryland, Ohio, Duquesne and most recently Texas A&M, with a close loss to Toledo. After Marshall, the ACC meatgrinder begins.
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