By WESLEY HOST
The Mary Washington men’s basketball team split a pair of games this past weekend, losing a heart breaker and winning a thriller in two overtime games at the South Region Shootout in Winchester, Virginia.
On Saturday, Mary Washington lost to North Carolina Wesleyan 91-87 in double overtime. For the Eagles, it was a tale of two halves. In the first half they shot 44 percent from the field and netted six three-pointers, as UMW went into the locker room leading 40-33 at halftime.
In the second half, the Eagles field goal percentage plummeted to 34 percent, and they only made three of 19 three-point attempts, which was detrimental for a team that relies so much on perimeter play.
Despite their poor offensive second half, the Eagles were down by just two with 22 seconds remaining when junior Ryan Farrar made a layup that tied the game and forced overtime. Farrar finished with a team high 14 points while freshmen E.J. Willis also played well, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Bishops started the scoring in the first overtime with a three pointer by junior Matt Dougherty, but the Eagles responded with a 6-0 run to take the lead. Later in the extra period, a steal by junior Tad Dickman led to a fast break layup by Smith to increase the Eagles lead to 76-73. However, another late three-pointer by North Carolina Wesleyan’s sharp shooter Dougherty knotted up the score once again and caused a second overtime.
The Bishops Cornelius Snow netted an early three just 16 seconds into the second overtime that gave North Carolina Wesleyan a lead they would not relinquish. The Bishops went on a 6-0 run later in the period to push their lead to eight, 87-79, and despite a late Eagles rally, it was simply too little too late.
“The team hasn’t gotten to the point where they can establish the tempo of the game. They don’t know when to push it and when to back down, being such a young team,” Head Coach Rod Wood said. “We played to the opponents tempo, and we can’t win games that way.”
Less than 24 hours after that grueling double-overtime loss, the Eagles found themselves in yet another nail-biter, yet this time they emerged victorious over host school Shenandoah College.
The Eagles struggled early to find their offense, as nine minutes into the half they had just four points. UMW was outshot by the Hornets from the field, from three, and from the foul line in the first half and faced a deficit as large as 13 points. But the Eagles were not deterred, as they clawed their way back into the game by halftime and trailed by just four, 38-34.
The shooting did not improve for UMW in the second half, as their field goal percentage dipped down to an abysmal 30 percent and they connected on just one of 17 three pointers.
“We have to be a perimeter shooting team,” Wood said. “Part of it is size, not having a big team, but we need to have more post presence.”
The key to the game for the Eagles was their pressure defense. The defense caused an astonishing 34 turnovers, and Dickman led the way with five steals, allowing UMW to overcome their offensive woes.
The Eagles kept grinding and continued to chip away at the lead into the second half. UMW was down by six with 1:41 to play when they went on a run to get back in the game once again. Freshman Walt Smith made a midrange jumper, Dickman connected on a pair of free throws and then converted a layup off a steal to give UMW a 6-0 run to tie the game with just under a minute to play.
The Eagles shot poor from the foul line in this game (64.5 percent), and after a field goal by Hornets sophomore Dominic Chappell, it would come down to a pair of free throws by freshman Matt Boward to decide UMW’s fate. Boward hit both free throws with a lone second remaining to force overtime.
The Eagles took control in overtime, outscoring Shenandoah 15-4 to secure the victory. UMW had five players score in double figures, led by Willis’ 14, and Dickman and Boward did the major work on the glass, as they recorded eight and nine rebounds respectively.
The win pushed the Eagles back over .500, as their record now sits at 3-2. With both games in this tournament being out of conference, their CAC mark sits spotless at 1-0. UMW took on Stevenson University at home last night, Dec. 1, but the results did not finish in time to be included in this issue. The next men’s basketball game will take place on Dec. 13, when the Eagles will take on Christopher Newport University at 5 p.m. in Goolrick Gymnasium.