William & Mary

Historic night for Thornton

  • Record-breaker
    Record-breaker  Marcus Thornton takes aim at the free throw that allowed him to set the school scoring record Wednesday against Towson. Thornton finished the game with 23 points and 2,062 for his career.  Photo by Tiffany Broadbent-Beker
  • Congratulations!
    Congratulations!  The Kaplan Arena crowd of 3,227 roared its approval every time Thornton scored.  Photo by Tiffany Broadbent-Beker
  • The scoreboard says it all
    The scoreboard says it all  The message was posted immediately after Thornton's two free throws gave him the school's all-time scoring record.  Photo by Tiffany Broadbent-Beker
  • Laser-like focus
    Laser-like focus  The shot that set the record -- up close.  Courtesy Tribe Athletics
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Marcus Thornton's record-breaking shot was an inch or two from being spectacular, the “stuff” of which college legends are made.

With mere seconds remaining in the first half of Wednesday's 65-50 victory over Towson, William & Mary's all-conference guard took off for the rim, a thunderous slam dunk his intent. Thornton almost pulled it off, but was fouled by Towson's Walter Foster at the height of his leap.

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With 3.3 seconds to go in the half, the first of Thornton's two free throws gave him 14 points for the game and 2,053 for his career – breaking the record set by Chet Giermak '50, the longest-standing school scoring mark in NCAA Division I basketball.

Thornton finished with 23 points to increase his career total to 2,062.

“I came off a screen, I believe,” Thornton said when asked to describe the dunk that might have been. “The lane sort of opened up. Whoever was guarding me got hung up. I just wanted to attack (the goal), make a play. Luckily, I got fouled and made two free throws.

“It was a good moment for me, definitely a relief … It's a good feeling. It's much better that we won. We're in good position as a team (with 18 victories, tied for first in the CAA), and that's what I'm focused on now.”

Early on, a Kaplan Arena crowd of 3,227 went crazy every time Thornton touched the ball – and especially after he scored – chanting “6 more points ... 6 more points” then “3 more points . . . 3 more points” then, finally, “1 more point … 1 more point” as Thornton stood at the foul line.

After he finished his free throws, coach Tony Shaver called timeout, the public address announcer told the crowd what it already knew  – Tribe basketball had a new scoring king. In unison, they offered a resounding standing ovation, one sure to be repeated Saturday when the Tribe celebrates Senior Day against Drexel.

“I've been really impressed with Marcus all year long,” Shaver said. “Obviously that record's been out there all year long and talked about a lot. It's often very hard to play well … His (team-oriented) focus is really good, but everybody's talking about other things.

“We've asked him lately to be more aggressive on the floor. I think at the start of the ballgame he was pretty aggressive.”

Indeed.

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Thornton opened the scoring for William & Mary with a reverse layup on which he was fouled for a conventional 3-point play just 1:19 into the contest. On the Tribe's next possession, he drilled a 3-point jumper from the right side.

In the first half, Thornton's teammates seemed determined to get him the ball on every possession, a ploy that concerned Shaver.

“At one point, we called timeout and talked about it,” Shaver said. “We told them, 'You've got to play, too. You just can't stand around watching Marcus.'”

Junior guard/forward Terry Tarpey took the message to heart, finishing as the game's high scorer with 24 points, one better than Thornton.

“We're proud of him,” Tarpey said when asked the team's reaction to its workaholic star. “He's going to find a gym to shoot in (today).”

With a victory Saturday, the Tribe will win its first-ever CAA regular-season title and be the top seed in the upcoming conference tournament in Baltimore March 6-9. Winning the regular-season crown would give William & Mary an automatic berth in the National Invitation Tournament. The more prestigious NCAA tournament, in which W&M has never participated, is clearly this team's ultimate desire.

“This (scoring record) is not (Thornton's) goal,” Tarpey said, “and I think we're all on the same page with that.”