Tribe's offense having trouble overcoming its defense

Contact Reporterdjohnson@dailypress.com

Few teams in college basketball can score like William and Mary. The Tribe is on pace to break the school record for points and have its best shooting season since 1983-84.

But lately, the flip side has become all too obvious. In addition to being one of the nation’s best offensive teams, W&M is among the worst on defense.

Entering Thursday night’s trip to the College of Charleston, William and Mary (15-8, 8-4 Colonial Athletic Association) is allowing 82 points a game on 49-percent shooting. The Tribe hasn’t given up that many points since 1993-94 or that high a percentage since 1988-89.

William and Mary has the dubious distinction of being the only team in Division I to be shooting 50 percent or better while allowing at least 49 percent. The Tribe and Savannah State are the only two teams scoring 85 or more and giving up 82-plus.

W&M coach Tony Shaver knows that isn’t a recipe for success, not if the Tribe wants to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

“We have to be a team that plays with great energy,” Shaver said during Tuesday’s CAA coaches teleconference. “We have to outwork our opponents on that end of the floor, and it has to be a philosophy of team defense.

“We’ve had real breakdowns on that approach this year, and without it, we’re not going to beat good teams in this league. It’s just that simple.”

W&M has allowed at least 90 points in five of its last seven games. In those five games, the Tribe’s opponents shot a collective 60 percent from the field and 51 percent from the 3-point arc.

One problem has been the Tribe’s lack of depth. Only Paul Rowley and Oliver Tot are averaging more than eight minutes a game off the bench. The starters have received little challenge in practice.

“That’s absolutely an issue, no question about it,” Shaver said. “There have been years, most years in fact, when we’d split up in a scrimmage and you didn’t know who would win. That’s not the case right now.”

As good as the Tribe’s guards are on the offensive end, they have offered little resistance on defense. In Drexel’s 91-79 win Saturday at Kaplan Arena, Tramaine Isabell and Kurk Lee combined for 45 points on 15-of-26 shooting, 6-of-12 from the 3-point arc.

“The thing for us is, we don’t have a lot of good one-on-one defenders,” Shaver said. “Our team understands it, and we’ve got to get better there.”

First-place Charleston (18-6, 9-3) has Joe Chealey, the CAA’s Preseason Player of the Year. He comes in averaging 18.8 points a game, 20.8 in conference play.

“They’re really good at what they do,” Shaver said. “They probably have the best talent and most experience in the league. They’ve clearly established themselves as the team to beat right now.”

Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveJohnsonDP.

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