WILLIAMSBURG — For 30 minutes, there were 13 lead changes with neither side holding an advantage greater than four points. It was anyone’s game.
Until it wasn’t. By “living at the rim,” as William & Mary coach Dane Fischer put it, Navy pulled away for a 74-59 win Monday night in Kaplan Arena. The Midshipmen made 10 of their final 15 shots; the Tribe missed 14 of its final 16.
“There were a number of times they just kept making one more play on the offensive end,” Fischer said. “They really made us pay whenever we made a mistake. We just couldn’t get enough stops when we needed to. We just couldn’t get that third stop in a row to really get ourselves on a run.
“We missed some good looks in the second half and probably took a couple of quick shots that weren’t great. There’s plenty we can build on and learn from, and that’s what we’ll do as we keep moving forward.”
Looking back, Fischer pointed to a key sequence that came with the Tribe leading 50-48 at the 12-minute mark. Noah Collier rebounded a Navy miss but turned it over, leading to a layup by the Mids’ Nate Allison to tie.
William & Mary then pushed the ball down the floor, and Miguel Ayesa missed a 3-point try from the right corner. Back came Navy, and Tyler Nelson knocked down a three from the right wing to give the Midshipmen a 53-50 lead with 11:41 remaining.
Those turned out to be the first five points of a 26-9 closing run.
“That was a pretty quick five-point swing,” Fischer said. “They had a ton of success tonight offensively getting the ball to the paint. Whether it was post-ups, whether it was drives, they were living at the rim for a lot of it during that stretch.”
Until that point, W&M was shooting 51% from the field. Collier, a transfer from Pittsburgh, had a strong Tribe debut with 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Ben Wight finished with 12 points and was 5-of-11 from the field.
Navy eventually switched to a zone in the second half, and neither Collier nor Wight made a basket in the final 12½ minutes.
“We’re not exactly clicking on all cylinders on offense right now,” Fischer said. “That being said, I thought we had a couple of really good possessions when the ball rimmed out. If those go down, it’s probably a different look for them.
“There were times tonight when we ran really good offense and got some great shots. There were some times where guys took it and broke off and tried to make plays … I think that’s them figuring out the blend of how this is going to go together.”
A big positive for the Tribe was only 10 turnovers. Point guards Tyler Rice and Anders Nelson combined for eight assists and three turnovers.
“I’ll take that every night out,” Fischer said. “It’s been a huge focus of ours to be able to take care of the ball and go to the offensive glass. We turn the ball over 10 times a game this year, we’ll be just fine.”