Monday, September 25, 2023

Balanced Attack Leads Men’s Basketball to Gritty CAA Win over Delaware

On a day when top scorer Luke Loewe didn’t have his stoke, William & Mary still found a way to end its four-game losing streak and get its first Colonial Athletic Association win.

With contributions throughout the lineup, the Tribe hung around long enough to finally take the lead and hold on for a 67-62 win Saturday at Kaplan Arena. Loewe’s layup with 3:18 remaining put W&M ahead for good, and Quinn Blair went 4-for-4 from the free throw line — two coming off a critical offensive rebound — in the final 24 seconds.

Blair led the Tribe (3-5, 1-2 CAA) with 13 points and eight rebounds. Freshmen Connor KocheraBen Wight and Yuri Covington combined for 31 points and 16 rebounds. Mehkel Harvey nearly had a double-double with nine points and nine boards.

“For us to get production from some other guys was certainly important,” W&M coach Dane Fischer said. “I’d love it if Luke scored 20 a game and shot 50 percent from the floor, but he’s going to have some days like this. It was good to see some other guys produce.

“It was a hard-fought win. It was another game where we didn’t play great offensively — we shot under 40 percent from the field, under 30 from 3. But we did just enough to get ourselves over the hump.”

The Tribe did it by holding Delaware (3-5, 1-2) to 34-percent shooting in the second half and finishing a season-best plus-10 (43-33) on the boards. W&M had 16 offensive rebounds, another season high, which it converted into 13 second-chance point.

None were bigger than Blair’s with 24.1 seconds remaining. With the Tribe leading 62-61, Loewe missed both ends of a two-shot foul. Blair snuck past the box out, snagged the board, and was fouled.

Blair, an 80-percent shooter, made both to push the lead to three.

“He made a ton of big plays for us,” Fischer said. “That was the play of the game.”

It was still a one-possession game, and Delaware went to 6-foot-10 Dylan Painter in the post. He was fouled while shooting by Harvey and split a pair from the line to make it 64-62.

W&M wisely inbounded to Blair, who quickly was fouled. He again went 2-of-2, which all but sealed it with 13.4 seconds remaining.

Painter, listed at 235 pounds, was a tough match-up with 14 points (6-of-14 from the field) and 15 rebounds. But the Tribe’s platoon combo of Wight and Harvey countered with a combined 19 (8-of-11) and 13.

“Our bigs did a great job of moving to find space to be available for some finishes,” Fischer said. “The other thing they did, they went to the offensive glass. They were able to get some cheap ones there.

“We talk all the time to the bigs, you can score 10 points a game just by playing with some effort. And those guys really did a good job of producing on offense and obviously (with) a real tough assignment on the defensive end.”

Although Loewe was 3-of-14 from the field, don’t get the idea he had a bad day. He finished with seven assists, three steals, and only two turnovers in 38 minutes. He also drew a key charge with 2:06 remaining when the Blue Hens were in transition trailing by two.

“And Connor had taken a charge earlier (6:17) in the second half, so we took two charges late in the game,” Fischer said. “Those were absolutely big plays for us because you could feel throughout the game it was going to come down to one or two possessions.

“It was going to be a grind to see who could make one more play than the other team. Those are the winning plays you have to make.”

Fischer was encouraged to see his young team take the lead with 3:18 remaining and, although it never led by more than five points, hold it.

“I was really pleased with how we closed out,” he said. “We handled their pressure and defended like we needed to down the stretch.

“(Assistant) Jason Kemp had the scout (report), and late in the game they ran a play for a 3 that he had drawn up on the board during a timeout for our guys to know how to handle. They went out and executed it perfectly. It was good to see us finish off a close game like that.”

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