By Dave Fairbank, firstname.lastname@example.org
12:53 AM EST, November 9, 2013
HAMPTON — Brian Darden was understandably nervous heading into his first college basketball game in a year. Once he buried his first shot, though, he and Hampton University were off and running.
Darden's 3-point barrage fueled an early surge and the Pirates held off William and Mary 77-69 Friday at the HU Convocation Center in the season opener for both teams.
"My nerves were crazy," said Darden, who starred at Phoebus High and transferred to HU after a year at Radford. "I was so anxious for this first game. But I prepped myself for this moment, so when the moment came I was able to capitalize."
Darden hit four 3-pointers and scored a dozen points in the first half, as Hampton sprinted to a 19-3 lead and the Tribe played catch-up the remainder of the game. He finished with 18 points, as one of four Pirates in double figures and one of 10 to scratch in the box score.
"I feel like this team isn't about two or three people or one 20-point scorer," said HU coach Ed Joyner Jr. "We feel like we can have eight or nine 10-point scorers. I think we showed that with our ball movement and our people movement tonight. That was a great team victory. Everybody had their moments, where they stepped up for us."
Emmanuel Okoroba finished with 17 points and worked pretty pick-and-rolls with point guard Deron Powers on consecutive possessions late in the game to turn back a William and Mary push.
Marcus Thornton led the Tribe with 21 points, and freshman Omar Prewitt came off the bench to add 15, including three 3-pointers. W&M senior post man Tim Rusthoven managed just four points and no rebounds in 22 foul-plagued minutes. The Tribe also was without senior guard Brandon Britt, suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules.
"He's one of our captains, one of our team leaders, four-year starter, so we missed him out there," Thornton said. "But we have to make do with the guys we have and we will."
Hampton cooled off after its hot start, and William and Mary climbed back into the game thanks to better offense and a zone defense that slowed the Pirates and made them work.
The Tribe was within 38-35 at halftime and trailed by three early in the second half, but HU built the lead to double figures. W&M made one last push, getting within 67-62 on Thornton's 3-pointer with 3:03 remaining.
But Okoroba scored six consecutive points, including back-to-back baskets on feeds from Powers, to extend the lead to 73-62 with 1:14 remaining.
"We showed great resolve in fighting back in the first half," W&M coach Tony Shaver said, "but in the second half, our execution was just not very good. That's a little hard to understand with veteran players."
In addition, Tribe freshman point guard Mike Schlotman was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
"There's no question, with both of our point guards not playing, that's a factor," Shaver said, "but we're good enough to play better defense."
Hampton made 6 of 12 shots from 3-point range, led by Darden's 4-for-5 effort, and shot 51 percent from the field.
"It was great," Darden said. "That's my mind-set — if I hit my first shot, my nerves can relax."
Said Joyner: "He makes open shots. He takes the pressure off of Deron and helps our inside guys settle down and play their games, because they're confident that he's going to make open shots."
William and Mary now prepares for its home opener Tuesday versus Liberty, while the Pirates travel to St. Peter's, also Tuesday.
"We've been preaching about being a team since our (preseason) trip to the Bahamas," Joyner said. "When you get to the beginning of the year and see those things come together, it builds confidence within your team. I've got to make sure now that they realize it's just one game and we've got to build on to that next one. But it's a good start."
Fairbank can be reached by phone at 757-247-4637.
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