Every day William and Mary’s Tony Shaver goes to work with a capable and versatile basketball team that hasn’t beaten a Division I opponent in six weeks.
Reasons are many and varied, but the Tribe (7-10, 1-5 CAA) simply isn’t playing well as it heads to league leader Northeastern, which has been as tough and resilient as W&M has been fragile and frustrated.
“It’s been a tough stretch, no question about it,” Shaver said Tuesday on the CAA’s weekly coaches’ yakfest. We’ve not had a win since Christmas and I think we’re a team that’s struggling with our confidence right now.”
William and Mary’s last win was Dec. 21 versus Division III Salisbury. Its last D-I win came Dec. 8 at Radford. The Tribe at one point was 7-3, with a six-point loss at Wake Forest and a double-overtime loss at Richmond.
Seven consecutive losses later, W&M is next-to-last in an uncharacteristically down year for the conference and faces a steep climb to make the upper half of the league.
“I think it’s a lack of consistency, individually and collectively,” Shaver said. “It’s not one individual’s problem or fault. One day, this young guy is really good and then he’s a non-factor the next time out.
“I think as a team we just have a stretch or two that really hurts our team in a ball game. It’s a stretch where we make a few mental mistakes or possibly lack-of-effort plays. What should be maybe a four-point run becomes a 10-point run. I think consistency has been a problem for this team since Christmas. It’s certainly something that we’ve addressed a lot. We’ve got to find a way to play 40 complete minutes.”
The Tribe even derived some encouragement from the first two losses of the streak, at Purdue and Vanderbilt, where it at least competed against marquee conference opponents.
W&M’s mojo took a big hit in a double-overtime loss at Towson, where it led by 13 with seven minutes left in regulation and by nine with two minutes to play and couldn’t hang on.
The Tribe came up empty against depleted Hofstra, was outscored by 30 over the final 24 minutes against Georgia State and then got duct-taped to a tree by Drexel last Saturday.
“I think consistency is that we have to continue to demand every day that each play be taken care of,” Shaver said. “Each play, take care of your responsibility so that your teammate can take care of his responsibility. We stress that on a daily basis.
“It goes back to something that you’ve heard me say a lot over the years, and this team hasn’t proven to be great at, and that’s to be execution driven. I think we take breaks at times – one individual here, one there. But we’re not great in our execution in 40 minutes.”
The Tribe’s numbers at both ends of the floor have taken a hit during the losing streak. Since Christmas, it’s shooting .376 from the field (11 points lower than the first 11 games) and .294 from 3-point range (seven points lower).
Opponents are shooting .461 overall (seven points better) and .333 from 3-point range (8 1/2 points higher). W&M is giving up almost 73 points per game in CAA play, even with last week’s 59-point game by Drexel.
“Obviously, competition’s gotten tougher,” Shaver said. “But our defense has to improve and we’ve given up entirely too many points since the holidays. … It’s one or two possessions for each guy, and all of a sudden you’re giving up 15 points you shouldn’t have given up.”
W&M’s points allowed are inflated a bit because it finds itself trailing late and forced to foul, sending opponents to the free throw line.
The Tribe has three double-figure scorers in Marcus Thornton, Tim Rusthoven and Brandon Britt. Rusthoven has been by far the team’s most consistent player, Shaver said, and Wilmington Star-News colleague Brian Mull rates the 6-9 junior as one of the conference’s 10 best players, using an array of metrics.
But W&M’s offensive balance has waned considerably in the past few weeks. In fact, Thornton, Rusthoven and Britt combined for 46 of the team’s 48 points versus Drexel.
Losing streaks aren't unusual at William and Mary -- this is the 12th streak of at least five consecutive losses in Shaver's 10 seasons. But given the depleted state of the CAA, and the Tribe's promising start, the current nosedive is perplexing.
“We’re proving capable of doing some things, but haven’t been consistent enough to hold onto those leads,” Shaver said. “We try to tell them the good things they’re doing, we try to stay upbeat with them. But the reality is that we’ve got to have some guys play better, at the same time.”Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times