William & Mary head coach Tony Shaver opened his postgame press conference by taking several sips out of a water bottle just to be able to speak. He then expressed what everyone in the room was feeling.
"Wow, What a great college basketball game," he said.
In what many are already calling an instant classic, William & Mary outlasted Hofstra 92-91 in double overtime in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore on Sunday.
CAA Player of the Year Marcus Thornton took an inbounds pass with eight seconds remaining and the Tribe trailing 91-89, drove to the top of the left wing, went up for a jumper and instead dished off to sophomore Daniel Dixon. Dixon was wide open in the corner and drained a 3-pointer with five seconds left to provide the winning margin.
Thornton, who set a CAA Tournament record with 37 points in the win, said the play was designed for him to make a decision whether to pass or shoot.
"They came up on me tight; I saw Daniel wide open in the corner and had great confidence in him," Thornton said. "He’s a great player and made a great shot."
As for his role, Dixon mentioned how much it meant for Thornton to pass to him.
"Marcus is a great player. Everyone knows he likes to take the last shot and he usually makes them," Dixon said. "For him to have the confidence in me to give it up is big for me."
For either Dixon or Thornton to even have a chance to make a game winning shot, the Tribe had to overcome a nine-point deficit with five minutes to play in regulation after Juan’ya Green, who led Hofstra with 23 points, put the Pride up 68-59 on two free throws.
The Tribe quickly got it back down to four on two free throws by Thornton and a 3-pointer by sophomore Omar Prewitt with 3:58 to play. Pride center Moussa Kone got off a running three-foot hook shot with: 02 to go but it missed its mark, and the game went to overtime tied at 73.
It looked like for a short period the Pride had been deflated, as the Tribe scored the first five points of the session to take a 78-73 lead with 3:55 to play. It was the first time they had the lead since they led 47-46 at the 13:07 mark of the second half.
"We talked about coming into this game and not blinking," Shaver said. "And they threw a lot at us and we didn’t blink. We got a lot of tough kids in that locker room."
Pride senior guard Dion Nesmith, who complemented Green’s performance with 21 points of his own, fouled out just 24 seconds into the extra period.
After falling behind by the five points in the first overtime, Hofstra answered with two 3-pointers by Brian Bernardi (17 points), to take a one-point lead with 1:26 to play. Bernardi was 5-for-12 from 3-point range. After two Prewitt free throws, Green and Thornton traded 3-pointers, with Thornton’s tying it at 83 with 42 seconds left in overtime.
Neither team scored again, but Thornton did get off an off balance three at the buzzer and drew contact from Green. No foul was called and the shot missed, sending the game to double overtime. It was the first double overtime game in CAA tournament play since 2010 when Hofstra and Northeastern played 10 extra minutes in the quarterfinals.
Neither team led by more than two points in the second overtime, and the lead changed hands three times. Thornton did not score in the second overtime, instead deferring to his open teammates.
"That’s a great thing about Marcus, he’s so unselfish," Shaver said. "He could probably score 37 points any night, but he has such great trust in his teammates."
In addition to Thornton’s record setting performance, Prewitt scored a career-high 33 points. It was the first time two teammates had scored 30 or more points in the same game in CAA tournament play.
In the second semifinal, Northeastern defeated UNCW 78-71 on the strength of Scott Eatherton’s 21 points. The Huskies also had three players off the bench score 11 points as David Walker filled the stat sheet as usual with 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
Northeastern (22-11) will be in the championship game for the second time in three years.