William & Mary coach Tony Shaver had two words to describe guard Marcus Thornton on Wednesday night.
"Money player," Shaver said.
Thornton scored 22 of his team-high 26 points after halftime as the Tribe edged former conference rival Old Dominion 74-68 at Kaplan Arena in Williamsburg, Va.
Guard Julian Boatner added 14 points, going 4-for-6 on 3-pointers, and guard Omar Prewitt contributed 11 points off the bench for the Tribe (7-5). Prewitt and Boatner each hit two foul shots in the last 30 seconds to help William & Mary ice the victory.
Guard Aaron Bacote tied his career high with a game-high 28 points for the Monarchs, who lost for the eighth time in nine games. Guard Dimitri Batten contributed 12 points, and forward Richard Ross contributed 10 points for Old Dominion (5-9).
Freshman guard Ambrose Mosley pulled the Monarchs within 64-62 on a long 3-pointer with less than three minutes left. Thornton restored order by driving and throwing down an emphatic dunk while being fouled with 2:18 left.
It was an impressive bounce-back performance for the 6-foot-4 Thornton, who was held to nine points on 3-of-16 shooting Sunday when the Tribe were annihilated 82-45 by West Virginia in Charleston.
"He hasn't shot the ball well lately, but he carried us in the second half (Wednesday)," Shaver said.
Bacote did the same in the first half for Old Dominion, singlehandedly bringing the Monarchs back into contention after they fell behind 28-11. He scored nine consecutive points, sinking back-to-back 3-pointers and then converting a three-point play.
Bacote scored 15 of his team's first 20 points, then finally got some help when the Monarchs opened the second half with a 16-5 run over the first 3:38. Batten tied it at 40 with a 3-pointer and hit a runner moments later to give Old Dominion its first lead.
Thornton responded with a 3-pointer and a tip-in to regain a 45-44 edge for William & Mary. The Tribe nursed its single-digit lead all the way to the finish line, taking advantage of an effective night at the foul line, where it went 21 of 27.
The Tribe were solid in all aspects offensively, connecting on 21 of 45 field-goal attempts and 11 of 23 tries from 3-point range. Their ball movement was outstanding, as they drew assists on all but five of their field goals.
Even more impressive, William & Mary did it without second-leading scorer Tim Rusthoven, a 6-foot-9 forward averaging 13.1 points and 5.5 rebounds. Rusthoven sat out with the flu and a toe injury.
"I thought we responded well without Tim on the floor," Shaver said. "We weren't great the other night against a great team, but we didn't do our part. We could be pretty good if we wouldn't lose our intensity."
The Monarchs sank 29 of 58 from the field, marking just the second time they lost among the six games they shot 50 percent or better. Old Dominion hurt its chances by missing their last three free throws, including two straight by guard Keenan Palmore with an opportunity to cut thei deficit to two in the final 90 seconds.
NOTES: William & Mary played its first New Year's Day game since 1972 and its first-ever home game on Jan. 1. ... The Monarchs and Tribe met as non-conference rivals for the first time since Dec. 5, 1990, a 71-63 William & Mary win in Williamsburg. Old Dominion left the Colonial Athletic Association after last season to join Conference USA. ... Old Dominion fell to 0-5 in games in which it permits 70 to 79 points.