To have any chance of staying with a Power Five team like Virginia Tech, William & Mary needed to come out strong. Instead, four minutes into the game, the Tribe trailed 14-0 and had a pair of starters on the bench with two fouls.
“It couldn’t have started more poorly for us,” W&M coach Dane Fischer said.
Things gradually improved, and while the Tribe didn’t shock the world with a monster comeback, it did give a strong performance in a 94-77 loss Sunday night at Cassell Coliseum. Although a loss is still a loss, W&M outscored the Hokies 42-37 in the second half.
Tech coach Mike Young wasn’t able to clear his bench until the final two minutes.
“Once we settled in, I was really pleased with how we competed,” Fischer said. “Our guys showed great grit and toughness going up against a really good team playing about as well as they can play in their own building.
“Obviously, the deficit was too much to overcome. But I was really pleased with the way we competed.”
It wasn’t just the 14-0 start. The Hokies hit 11 of their first 16 shots, 7-of-9 from the 3-point arc, and led 29-8 led nine minutes into the game. But instead of panicking, the Tribe took a breath and outscored Tech 69-65 the rest of the way.
“They seemed to make everything they threw up there,” Fischer said. “It got us on our heels. But once we settled in, we played some really good offensive basketball as a team. There’s a lot we can take away as positives for this game.”
A 26½-point underdog against the defending ACC champions, the Tribe shot 50% from the field despite missing its first nine shots. W&M made 11 3-pointers in 22 attempts and had only 12 turnovers — its third consecutive game to start the season with that many or fewer.
Anders Nelson, a transfer from the University of St. Thomas (Minn.), scored the Tribe’s first 11 points and finished with a season-high 25 on 10-of-15 shooting, 4-of-7 from the 3-point arc. He edged out Hokie point guard Sean Pedulla, who finished with 22 points and four assists.
“He plays with a ton of confidence and composure, and he’s unbelievably competitive,” Fischer said of Nelson. “He loved the challenge knowing how good Pedulla is. He was terrific.”
The start was a nightmare. Tech made its first five shots, four of which were from the 3-point arc, and led 14-0 less than three minutes into the game. Forward Noah Collier and point guard Tyler Rice, both starters, picked up two fouls in the first four minutes.
The Hokies were never seriously threatened with leads of 57-35 at halftime and 71-43 with 14:35 remaining. But the Tribe outscored Tech 34-23 in the final 14½ minutes.
The Tribe’s next game is set for Wednesday night at American University.