The talk surrounding the William & Mary men’s basketball team throughout the preseason revolved around three things – three returning junior starters, a talented group of freshmen and a renewed focus on the defensive end of the court. Put a check mark in all three categories following the Tribe’s 79-69 season-opening win over High Point on Wednesday night at Kaplan Arena.
Juniors Justin Pierce (23 points and 14 rebounds) and Matt Milon (17 of his 19 points in the second half) led the way for the Green and Gold, while five Tribe freshmen made key contributions in their first collegiate action, highlighted by 14 points from rookie L.J. Owens.
Defensively, the Tribe held the Panthers to 0.98 points per possession and 43.3 percent shooting overall. The key stretch defensively came in the final 5:43 after High Point tied the game at 62. W&M limited the visitors to just 2-of-8 from the floor to go with three turnovers in HPU’s final 10 possessions.
Pierce, Milon and sophomore Luke Loewe scored 15 of the Tribe’s final 17 points after the Panthers pulled even. Loewe gave W&M the lead for good with a baseline, pull-up jumper at the 5:14 mark and added a shot-clock beating 3-pointer nearly three minutes later. Milon scored the Green and Gold’s final five points, including the back-breaking, shot-clock-beating 3-pointer with just 40.3 seconds to play to extend the advantage to 77-69.
How it happened
– W&M started slow missing five of its first six shots, and High Point opened up as much as a six-point lead, 9-3, five minutes into the contest.
– Freshman L.J. Owens sparked an 8-0 Tribe run as the Green and Gold took a lead it would not relinquish. His back-to-back 3-pointers a minute apart off assists from fellow freshmen Thornton Scottand Quinn Blair gave W&M a 16-13 cushion at the 11:19 mark.
– Leading 22-19, the Tribe used a nine-point spurt to open up its largest lead of the contest at 31-19 with 4:06 remaining in the first half. Junior Justin Pierce knocked down a triple and then found Owens for a back-door cut dunk. The Tribe rookie capped the run with an old-fashion 3-point play on the break of a pass from Scott.
– High Point used a 12-2 run spanning the end of first half and the start of second to close the Tribe advantage to just a single point, 34-33, less than a minute into the final frame.
– The Green and Gold responded with a 10-0 run as junior Matt MIlon caught fire. He knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to push the margin to 44-33 with 17:11 left.
– Brandonn Kamga, a Northeastern transfer, led the Panther charge in the second half as he scored 21 of his 24 in the final 20 minutes. He sparked a 10-1 HPU run with eight points to close the gap to 48-46 with 13:38 remaining.
– Kamga continued his barrage with nine Panther points in a row to pull the visitors even at 57 with 8:17 left.
– The Tribe showed some defensive moxie down the stretch. After High Point tied the contest again at 62 at the 5:43 mark, W&M limited the visitors to just 2-of-8 from the floor with three turnovers in HPU’s final 10 possessions.
– On the other end, W&M scored on seven of its final 11 possessions. Sophomore Luke Loewe scored five points during the stretch, including a dagger of a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 2:33 left to push the Tribe lead back to five at 72-67.
– Junior Matt Milon scored the Green and Gold’s final five points, including the back-breaking 3-pointer with 40.3 seconds left to extend the cushion to 77-69.
Inside the numbers
– The Tribe shot 53.3 percent (16-of-30) from the field in the second half on the way to finishing at 49.1 percent (27-of-55).
– After shooting just 25 percent (3-of-12) from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes, W&M hit at a 46.2 percent (6-of-13) in the second frame. The Tribe finished with nine triples, shooting 36 percent from distance.
– W&M turned 13 High Point turnovers into 21 points.
– The Green and Gold outscored the visitors off turnovers (21-13), on the break (16-11) and off the bench (18-4).
– High Point pulled down 12 offensive rebounds and scored 10 second-chance points.
– Jahaad Proctor led all scorers with 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting for High Point.
– W&M outrebounded the Panthers, 37-35.
Freshman L.J. Owens hit the first five shots of his Tribe career and finished with 14 points, all in the first half … After going just 1-of-4 from the floor in the first half, junior Matt Milon connected on all five of his shots in the second half, including four 3-pointers … He tallied 17 of his 19 points in the final 20 minutes … Junior Justin Pierce tallied his eighth career double-double with 23 points and 14 rebounds … As a team, the Tribe blocked seven shots, including thee from junior Nathan Knight and two from freshman Mehkel Harvey … Five Tribe freshman saw action in the win, including all five appearing on the floor at the same time during stretches … The group combined for 18 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in 70 minutes of action … Knight led W&M with four assists to go with 11 points and six rebounds … Freshman Thornton Scott chipped in three assists of the bench … Sophomores Luke Loewe and Jihar Williams earned their first collegiate starts in the season opener … Graduate student walk-on Chris Clark made his W&M debut in the first half … W&M improved to 15-1 in home openers under head coach Tony Shaver.
– The Tribe travels to Pittsburgh, Pa., to face Atlantic 10 foe Duquesne on Saturday, Nov. 10. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. from the A.J. Palumbo Center.
– The game will be televised on ESPN+.
– The contest will be the first of four in the Gotham Classic for the Tribe.
– Tribe fans can catch the men’s basketball action over the Tribe Radio Network with Andrew Phillipsand Kris Sears 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 over the Web at TribeAthletics.com.
Catch up on William & Mary men’s basketball with the ‘Luncheon with Tony’ series starting on Tuesday, Nov. 13. The monthly luncheons featuring head coach Tony Shaver will be held at Anna’s Brick Oven and gives fans an inside look at Tribe basketball. The luncheon will include a buffet for $13.50. Anna’s Brick Oven is located at 2021 Richmond Road in Williamsburg. The ‘Luncheon with Tony’ series provides fans the opportunity to get Coach Shaver’s thoughts on the Tribe’s season and upcoming games as well as talk W&M basketball with select Tribe players and the Green and Gold coaching staff.