"Um…," said College of William and Mary coach Debbie Taylor with a reflective pause, searching for the right words to describe a 69-58 win in which her team shot 26.9% in the second half to defeat Seattle University in the SeattleU Thanksgiving Tournament
"It wasn’t pretty but I thought for playing back to back games against a team who hadn’t played back to back games our effort was good."
Indeed it was an ugly game.
In fact, looking at the final box score, it might not be immediately evident how they even managed a win. SeattleU even outplayed them in the second half, shooting 41.2% in the second half, staying even on the boards, and forcing two more turnovers than William & Mary.
But the big difference in the game was W&M guard Taysha Pye, who had 22 poins on 7-13 shooting. As evidenced by her 8-12 shooting from the free throw line, the stocky 5'8" guard didn’t exactly get her points the easy way either.
With 2:56 left in the first half and her team up 31-18, Pye drove to the basket missed a layup, immediately gathered herself to grab the offensive rebound, reset herself, and went up against strong to make a layup. Two minutes later, she took the ball from the left wing, came to a stop in front of SeattleU forward Ashley Brown, spun around Brown and drew a foul as she tried to scoop the ball into the basket.
After getting pretty much anything she wanted in the first half en route to 13 points and 5-6 free throw shooting, it was no wonder that Taylor called out for point guard Katherine DeHenzel to get the ball to Pye on the last play of the half. Once again, she drove from the top of the key just past the elbow. But with DeHenzel’s defender dropping off to help, Pye quickly dished the ball off to DeHenzel and screened her defender to leave her with a wide open 3.
"If we’re not scoring as a group in our motion, we go to Taysha and ask her to get to the rim and I thought she played a great game tonight," said Taylor.
Pye possesses a combination of agility, athleticism, size and strength that SeattleU simply could not contend with, whether it was taking it from the wing with two or three hard dribbles, grabbing offensive rebounds, or pulling up in the middle of the key for floaters.
In addition to Pye’s penetration, W&M got a complementary contribution from guard Janine Aldridge who went 5-10 from the three point line, including four in the first half. Point guard Katherine DeHenzel chipped in 10 points, 5 steals, and 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
"We start with three sophomores and two freshmen so we’re a really young team and we try to get better with every game," said Taylor. "Pye and Dehenzel – even our three guard Aldridge hitting five threes tonight –are kinda holding down the fort right now."
Led by Pye and Aldride on offense and point guard Katherien DeHenzel’s steady play on defense with three first half steals and good pressure on SeattleU point guard Cassidy Murillo, W&M took a 40-26 lead into halftime, shooting 48.4% and beating Seattle U on the boards with an offensive rebounding percentage of 38% to 7%.
"In the first half we didn't come out how we would have liked and it put us in a hole," said SeattleU head coach Joan Bonvicini.
However, things turned around in the second half behind the strong play of point guard Cassidy Murillo.
"The second half was a different story," said Bonvicini. "I thought Cassidy (Murillo) had an outstanding game both offensively and defensively, but we have to put it together for 40 minutes."
Down 49-31 with 15:30 left, Murillo catalyzed a 13-2 second half run with one of her trademark baseline drives and an assist to reserve Julee Christianson for a three pointer. Defensively, she intercepted consecutive lackadaisical passes from W&M guards for two fast break layups, in both cases pump faking once she got to the basket to watch the athletic Pye fly by her. She did everything she could to bring the team within seven at the 7:56 mark, setting up teammates for scoring opportunities, playing the passing lanes, and containing Pye, forcing her into two turnovers during the run.
After the run, it was Pye who immediately brought W&M back with six points of an 8-2 run to push the lead back to 13 with 3:47 left. It was more of the same for Pye, getting the ball on the left wing, driving down the right side of the lane, absorbing contact, and going up strong to get the layup.
It wasn’t a pretty game, but the duel between Pye and Murillo in the latter quarter of the game was certainly exciting to watch. For SeattleU, it came down to the recurring theme of the season – needing to put together a full game rather than playing in spurts.
For W&M it was an impressive trip to Seattle, winning back to back games on the road.
"We need to take better care of the ball and we kinda let them back in the game but I think they fight really hard and they’re going to be a really good team," said Taylor. "So I was proud of getting two victories on the road."
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