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Thornton, William & Mary hold off CAA leader Northeastern in Saturday matinee

In a battle of two of the CAA's best on national television, the William & Mary Tribe bested the Northeastern Huskies, 78-62, in a likely preview of conference tournament play.

William & Mary Athletics

When you have the undisputed best player in the conference, it might be hard at times to not get tunnel vision and feed him the ball on every possession.

But on Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg, Va., William & Mary seemingly used everyone but preseason CAA player of the year, Marcus Thornton, to pounce on conference leader Northeastern.

William & Mary jumped out to a 17-8 lead early in the first half, without much help from Thornton. Terry Tarpey, the only player averaging a double-double in league play, scored six of the Tribe's first nine points.

The Tribe extended their lead to 12 thanks to a 9-0 run, while Thornton didn't score his first basket until 7:28 in the first half. William & Mary led 38-27 at halftime.

Being the preseason favorite, Northeastern had a inevitable run in them, cutting the Tribe's lead to two points multiple times midway through the second half.

Thornton got more involved on the scoring end in the second frame, scoring nine of his 13 points in the final 20 minutes as William & Mary gave themselves some breathing room.

The runner-up in preseason player of the year voting, Scott Eatherton, scored 12 points in the loss.

What was clearly evident in this game is that aside from his terrific scoring ability, Thornton is so important to this team in the passing game. And while the assist number won't necessarily tell the whole story, his unselfishness was on full display for the nation to see.

The Tribe utilized perfectly designed slip screens with Thornton feeding big man Sean Sheldon for easy layups. Thornton also showed his ability to find both Sheldon and Omar Prewitt in the post for close buckets.

The supporting cast was big for the Tribe, with Tarpey, Sheldon and Prewitt combining for 49 points.

With the win, William & Mary moves to 6-2 in CAA play, moving into a virtual tie with the Huskies at the top of the standings.

William & Mary is one of five original Division I teams to never qualify for the NCAA Tournament, and after Saturday's performance, Thornton looks poised to lead his team to their first berth in the big dance.