College of Charleston basketball coach Doug Wojcik felt like William & Mary guard Marcus Thornton was the best player in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Nothing Wojcik witnessed Monday night changed his mind.
Marcus Thornton poured in 26 points and Brandon Britt added 15 to lead William & Mary past College of Charleston, 74-63, on Monday night at Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg, Va.
It was the second straight loss for the Cougars, who dropped to 11-11 overall and 3-4 in the CAA. The Tribe improved to 12-7 and 4-2.
Before the game, Wojcik said if he could trade for one player in the CAA, it would be Thornton, a 6-4 junior guard from Upper Marlboro, Md.
Thornton beat the Cougars defense in a variety of ways - driving to the basket, shooting the 3-pointer and using a very effective mid-range game to create his own shots. Thornton, who is averaging a CAA-best 19 points a game, was 10 of 17 from the floor, including 3 of 5 from 3-pont range.
"Marcus Thornton is a player," Wojcik said. "He can create his own shot, he can take you off the dribble. If there's one guy in the league I'd love to have, it is Marcus Thornton. He's just a very, very good player."
The task of trying to slow down Thornton was given to Cougars junior guard Anthony Stitt, who was giving up more than four inches in height in the matchup. Stitt tried to match Thornton basket-for-basket and finished with a team-high 18 points, including five 3-pointers.
"I thought Anthony did a phenomenal job trying to guard Thornton," Wojcik said. "Thornton is just a very tough player to defend. Anthony had a phenomenal game. There's no shame for Anthony."
It was a textbook first half for the Cougars, who frustrated the Tribe's outside shooting game with constant pressure. The Cougars took away the Tribe's outside shooting game, as William & Mary was 0 for 2 from 3-point range in the first half.
"We played an absolutely fantastic first half," Wojcik said. "One of the keys to the beating them is defending the 3-point line. We did a great job on their 3-point shooters in the first half."
The Cougars had their way with the Tribe on the offensive end. Nori Johnson's 3-pointer gave the Cougars a 27-19 lead midway through the opening half, and Willis Hall added a 3 to give the Cougars their biggest lead, 34-21, with 1:50 to play before intermission.
The second half was a different story as the Tribe hit all seven of their 3-pointers in the final 20 minutes of the game.
"They started to make some shots and got some confidence," Wojcik said.
Another important factor was the Tribe's ability to score in transition off Cougars turnovers. The Cougars had just 11 turnovers, six in the second half, but it led to 12 points for the Tribe.
"I'm actually pretty happy with the 11 turnovers for the game, that's a pretty good job of taking care of the basketball," Wojcik said. "The problem was that in the second half, they converted on all of our turnovers."
Adjehi Baru, who finished with six points and 10 rebounds, converted a three-point play to give the Cougars a 39-30 lead with 17:28 to play.
The Tribe answered with a 16-5 run over the next six minutes to grab a 46-44 lead on Omar Prewitt's free throw with 10:11 to play.
The Cougars cut it to 48-47 on Stitt's layup. But Thornton pulled up for a 15-foot jumper and added a 3-pointer a minute later. Prewitt had a dunk with 6:05 to play as the Tribe began to pull away, 57-48.
The Cougars would get to within five points on two occasions, but could not get any closer down the stretch.
"I know who is in this league," Wojcik said. "I know how good this league is. It's tough to win on the road. We're going to hold our heads up high."
The Cougars will face Hofstra Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at TD Arena.