Technically, it did not matter which William & Mary player made the three-pointer that narrowly beat the buzzer and defeated Hofstra. The score was important, not the scorer.
Nightmares, though, do tend to have long memories. And the sight of Daniel Dixon with the ball in his hands and the clock expiring was more than a technicality.
It was Dixon who had ended the Pride’s 2014-15 season by sinking a three-pointer at the double-overtime buzzer to turn a deficit into a conference tournament semifinal win.
There he was again Monday with his team down a point and down to its last gasp in overtime. Score him 2-for-2, with the final word in a riveting 95-93 game at Hofstra in a burgeoning CAA rivalry.
“I think two years ago, it was a little bit different because that shot felt a little better last time,” Dixon said after evading stout coverage and launching the catch-and-shoot straightaway jumper from well beyond the three-point line. “This one I was a little bit more unsure about. I was just happy to get it out of my hand.”
Hofstra (9-6, 1-1) had a foul to give and used it on Dixon with 1.2 seconds left, forcing William & Mary (7-6, 1-1) to start over. “We originally had called a play for me to come off a ball screen and they immediately fouled,” Dixon said. “Then we called a play and I popped to the corner. [Brian] Bernardi did a good job cutting me off and I popped up to the top and that was it.
“They’re a great team . . . We play them tough every time,” the senior said, mindful that the Pride knocked his team out of the conference tournament last year in the semifinals.
For the record, Pride coach Joe Mihalich said the difference was not Dixon’s déjà vu performance but his own team’s laissez-faire defense early in each half. “We didn’t guard. We didn’t have the will to defend. We let them feel good,” he said.
Spoiled were 18 points from Bernardi (who passed 1,000 in his Hofstra career) and 17 points and seven assists from Deron Powers. Worse yet, the loss wasted a career effort by sophomore Justin Wright-Foreman, who had 30 points.
Asked how he felt afterward, Wright-Foreman said, “Not too good. I felt, and everybody should feel, like we should have just played defense and we would have won this game.”
He also was unhappy about missing two free throws with 10 seconds left in overtime. A half-hour after the buzzer, Wright-Foreman was back at the line practicing.
By then, Mihalich had said of Dixon, “Geez, it doesn’t matter who would have made that shot. It would have been the same amount of heartbreak.”
But it would not be a shock if there’s another dramatic finish in March. “It’s a great rivalry,” Dixon said. “I think it’s something that will last for a while.”