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LYNCHBURG – The William & Mary men’s basketball team turned in a strong second-half performance on the defensive end in picking up its second straight road win to open the 2015-16 season, 70-59, at Liberty on Tuesday night.
In the second 20 minutes, the Tribe limited the Flames (2-1) to just 21 points on 30.4 percent (7-of-23) shooting and just 1-of-12 from 3-point range. W&M opened the year with two straight road wins for just the third time in program history and the first since the 1945-46 season.
Junior Omar Prewitt led the Tribe with 16 points and three assists, while seniors Sean Sheldon and Terry Tarpey added 12 and 11 points, respectively. Tarpey added a game-high eight rebounds and was 5-of-6 from the floor, while Sheldon finished the night at 6-of-8 from the floor to go with three assists.
Sophomores Greg Malinowski and Jack Whitman each chipped in nine points off the bench. Malinowski and junior Daniel Dixon shared team-high rebounding honors with Tarpey at eight apiece.
W&M scored eight of the opening 10 points in the second half to erased a three-point deficit and surge in front for good. Prewitt scored four straight to start the half for the Green and Gold and found Sheldon for a bucket at the 16:49 mark to give the Tribe a 43-40 advantage.
The W&M bench scored six straight points to extend the margin to nine, 53-44. Whitman tallied four straight, before sophomore Connor Burchfield found Malinowksi for a lay-up at the 11:30 mark.
Liberty clawed its way back within three, 55-52. A.C. Reid knocked down the Flames only 3-pointer of the second half, and Anthony Field scored on a driving lay-up with seven and a half minutes remaining.
The Tribe answered with an 11-2 run over a five-minute stretch to take its largest lead of the contest at 12 points and put the game out a reach. Dixon knocked down a big 3-pointer from the right side, just the Tribe’s second of the night, at the 6:17 mark. Sheldon scored back-to-back buckets in the paint, before Malinowski’s 3-of-4 effort from the charity stripe put the Tribe on top 66-54 with 2:12 remaining.
W&M shot better than 50 percent from the floor for the second straight game, finishing at 55.6 percent (25-of-45). The Tribe was 18-of-28 (64.3 percent) from the free throw line and held a 38-21 cushion in rebounding.
Defensively, the Green and Gold limited Liberty to 43.4 percent (23-of-53) shooting and just 6-of-28 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range. The Tribe outscored the Flames 42-30 in the paint and 22-2 off the bench.
A back-and-forth first half saw the Tribe shoot 56 percent (14-of-25) from the field, but Liberty answered with a 53.3-percent (16-of-30) clip, including five 3-pointers. W&M led for the majority of the opening 20 minutes (17:27 to be exact).
After Liberty closed to within 16-15, W&M converted back-to-back buckets to take its largest lead of the opening half. Burchfield knocked down the Green and Gold’s only 3-pointer from the first period from the left wing, before sophomore Michael Schlotman found Tarpey for a lay-up to extend the lead to 21-15 with 9:23 left.
The Flames responded with seven straight points as an Ezra Talbert lay-up at the 7:42 mark put the home side on top for the first time at 22-21. W&M pushed the advantage back to as much as four, 29-25, on a Tarpey tip-in off a fastbreak chance, but Liberty took the advantage to the locker room.
With the game tied at 35, Ryan Kemrite knocked down a 3-pointer from the right corner at the half-time horn to give the home team a 38-35 lead.
Fields led five Flames in double figures with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Reid and Maxwell added 12 apiece, while Kemrite and Cabbil had 10 each. Maxwell pulled down a team-best eight rebounds on the evening.
The Tribe opens the home portion of the 2015-16 slate when it welcomes Washington Adventist to Kaplan Arena on Thursday. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live for free in HD on Tribe Athletics TV via Stretch Internet.
Tribe fans can also listen into the broadcast over the Tribe Radio Network with Jay Colley and Charlie Woollum on the call. The Tide 92.3 FM and 107.9 Bach FM are the flagship stations of the Tribe Radio Network and the audio is also available at TribeAthletics.com.