For Sunday night’s Colonial Athletic Association quarterfinal against Northeastern, it was vital that William & Mary came out of the gate fast. For the second night in a row, the Tribe did.
But the Huskies aren’t UNC Wilmington, and the Tribe was unable to keep them down. Leading by nine points with just under six minutes remaining in the first half, W&M exited the tournament with a 63-47 loss in Harrisonburg.
The Tribe (7-10) shot 23 percent and went 1-of-10 from the 3-point arc in the second half. Northeastern (10-8), the highest remaining seed in the tournament at No. 2, hit 9 of its first 14 shots after halftime and led by as many as 21 points.
“I thought we came out like we did last night (against UNC Wilmington) with really good defensive focus and energy, and on offense we were able to get the ball in the paint and get some stuff around the rim,” W&M coach Dane Fischer said. “In the second half, we just couldn’t get anything going offensively.
“(Northeastern) did a great job of trying to take us out of some of our stuff. We had some shots around the rim that we certainly needed to make and a couple from the free throw line that didn’t go down. And then they got going with their transition and hit some 3s.”
In what might have been his final game at William & Mary, senior guard Luke Loewe led his team with 18 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. He had one turnover in 39 minutes. Quinn Blair, gutting out a shoulder injury, had 11 points.
The rest of the Tribe’s lineup was a combined 6-of-27 from the field, 2-of-10 from the 3-point arc. Connor Kochera, the CAA Rookie of the Year, was held to four points on 2-of-8 shooting.
Though it led by nine points with 5:40 remaining, the Tribe was at least content with a 28-25 lead at halftime. Averaging nearly 14 turnovers a game, W&M had only three in the first 20 minutes. It took only three minutes in the second half to match that.
As the Tribe missed its first seven shots from the field, the Huskies began the second half with a 22-4 run. Northeastern took a 47-32 lead on a Jahmyl Telfort 3-pointer with 12:12 remaining.
W&M cut the deficit to 11, but the margin stayed in double digits the rest of the way. Missing two starters, Northwestern outscored the Tribe 38-19 in the second.
“Obviously, it was two completely different halves,” Loewe said. “We came out a little slow and they went on an early run. They had the momentum, and we struggled to recover from that.”
Loewe and Fischer both dismissed the notion that fatigue became a factor in the second half.
“I thought our guys competed in both halves,” Fischer said. “Sometimes, your legs might feel a little more tired when the ball doesn’t go in as many times as you want it to. But it certainly can’t be an excuse for us.”
Blair was injured with 17:54 remaining in the first half when he crashed to the floor while attempting a layup. He came out at 16:31 but returned nearly four minutes later. Blair ended up playing 24 minutes, just under his average.
“Our trainer said he was good to go, and Quinn kept saying, ‘Coach, I’m good, I’ll go out there and play,'” Fischer said. “A credit to him to be able to fight through some pain there.”
Loewe echoed that.
“He’s a tough kid,” he said. “I don’t know how bad it is, but playing through anything is tough.”
Although the NCAA is granting winter-sport athletes an extra season of eligibility due to the pandemic, Loewe said earlier this week he wouldn’t begin thinking about it until the season ends. The season has officially ended, and what a crazy one it was.
Twice, the Tribe was forced to hit the pause button and quarantine. Eight of its 18 conference games ended up being canceled for COVID reasons, within either W&M’s program or its opponent’s.
“Weird is the word that comes to mind,” Loewe said when asked to sum up the season. “Playing games with no fans — CAA games are usually packed and you get momentum from crowds. You feed off that stuff, and it was just weird.”