ELON, NORTH CAROLINA — Missing its best perimeter shooter and its leading rebounder, William & Mary struggled to score and rebound in a 66-55 loss at Elon Saturday afternoon.
The Phoenix took command with an 11-2 run early in the second half, and the Tribe was unable to get the deficit below six points in the final 10½ minutes. Despite getting 31 points from its bench, W&M (9-17, 4-9 CAA) lost its fourth consecutive game.
The Tribe shot 35% from the floor, 9-of-30 from the 3-point arc. W&M was outrebounded 40-28 and outscored in the paint 36-16. The Phoenix (6-20, 4-9 CAA) was 12-of-18 on shots around the basket to W&M’s 5-of-10.
“I thought for the most part, we played the game like we wanted to,” Tribe coach Dane Fischer said. “We did a good job defending their actions and did a really nice job taking care of the ball. We got some really good looks against the zone.
“What really hurt was their ability to get to the rim on us. They had some timely offensive rebounds, and we struggled to score around the rim against them.”
Tyler Rice had another strong performance with 13 points on 5-of-13 shooting and two assists in 24 minutes. Miguel Ayesa added 12 on 4-of-10 accuracy from behind the 3-point arc. Ben Wight finished with 11 points and three steals.
Missing Saturday’s game with injuries were Gabe Dorsey, who is ninth nationally in 3-point percentage, and Noah Collier, the Tribe’s top rebounder at 8.2 per game. Their status for Monday night’s home game against Towson is uncertain.
Checking in with 15:04 left in the first half, Rice and Ayesa gave the Tribe’s offense an immediate spark. Rice drained his first two shots, both from 3-point range. Ayesa missed his first two attempts but knocked down his next three.
“We talked about how it was an opportunity for some guys to step up, and we got a really good boost off the bench from Miguel Ayesa and Tyler Rice,” Fischer said. “We talked about rebounding by committee, and (point guard) Anders Nelson led us in rebounding today with five. We just had to have the next-man-up mentality.
“We told everybody how we were going to get a lot of good looks against the zone if we’re patient and move the ball. I thought we did that for the vast majority of the game. Tyler and Miguel were the guys knocking them down and had a lot of opportunities.”
Sixteen seconds into the second half, Wight hit a short hook to cut Elon’s lead to 32-31. But over the next 3½ minutes, the Phoenix made five of six shots and took a 43-33 lead on Max Mackinnon’s breakaway off a live-ball turnover.
The Tribe cut Elon’s lead in half with a 3-pointer by Nelson and a short jumper by Charlie Williams, but it would get no closer. W&M shot 31% in the second half, 4-of-14 from deep.
Elon shot 50% overall, 4-of-17 from the 3-point arc, and was 12-of-18 from the free throw line. W&M has given up at least 50% shooting in six of its last seven games.
The Tribe will host Towson (17-9, 9-4), which on Saturday lost 73-66 at Drexel, Monday night at Kaplan. The Tigers defeated W&M 92-73 on Jan. 28 in Towson.