WILLIAMSBURG — Chris Mullins is known as a defensive stopper, and he played that role well Thursday night. But in William & Mary’s 69-66 win over Northeastern in Kaplan Arena, he was every bit as valuable on the offensive end of the floor.
Mullins scored or assisted on each of his team’s final four baskets, and the Tribe began the New Year with its first Colonial Athletic Association win of the season. Anders Nelson made a pair of free throws with 3.3 seconds left, and the Huskies’ Jahmyl Telfort finished a frustrating night by missing a desperation 3-pointer at the horn.
W&M (6-9, 1-1) has had trouble closing out games this season. But Mullins, who had four of his eight points and two of his four assists in the final 8:06, was the closer on both ends.
“Every time we talk about him, we initially talk about the defensive end,” W&M coach Dane Fischer said. “And what he did today was exactly that. But he was really good for us offensively tonight hitting the paint.
“The way that Northeastern guards you, they try to make you play two-on-two and on the ball screens, they don’t give a lot of help on the perimeter. He was able to get in the paint and made some tough shots.”
Mullins, a grad transfer from Rice, scored in the post on consecutive possessions to give William & Mary a 59-52 lead with 7:42 remaining. But 25 seconds later, he was whistled for his fourth foul.
Mullins spent the next three minutes and five seconds on the bench. In his absence, the Huskies (5-9, 1-2) went on a 7-1 run and cut the Tribe’s lead to 60-59.
After Matteus Case went 2-for-2 from the free throw line with 3:23 remaining, Mullins intercepted a pass by Chris Doherty out of the post. With Nelson on the bench, Mullins ran the point and dished to Ben Wight for a layup to make it 64-59 with 2:55 left.
Two possessions later, Mullins found Wight again. The lead was 66-59 with 1:23 remaining.
“When you’re in a nip-and-tuck game like that, it’s not about you making the hero play,” Mullins said. “You just try to make the right play every single time.”
Yet as always seems to be the case between these teams, the game still went down to the wire.
After Coleman Stucke’s layup and 3-pointer, Nelson went 1-of-2 from the free throw line to make it 67-64 with 28.2 seconds left. Northeastern had a chance to tie, but Telfort and Rashad King each missed a 3-pointer.
Joe Pridgen scored on the second offensive rebound of the possession, but only 4.9 seconds remained. After Northeastern coach Bill Coen called his final timeout, Nelson went 2-for-2 from the line and Telfort drew nothing on a 32-footer at the buzzer.
It was the fifth time in the last seven games that went down to the final possession of regulation.
Telfort, who came in averaging 17.2 points a game, matched his season low with five points on 2-of-7 shooting. Mullins did most of the work on him, but Case and others were involved.
“It was really a team effort, especially when the ref called those fouls,” Mullins said, referring to his foul trouble. “When I was on him, I just tried to do what I do against every great player and make it tough on him.
“You’re never going to shut down a great player like Telfort. You just try to make him take difficult shots and live with the results.”
Nelson finished with 16 points (5-of-9 from the field, 5-of-6 from the free throw line) and four assists. Wight had 12 points and two steals. And providing a huge boost after missing Saturday’s loss at Drexel was Noah Collier, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Northeastern shot 50% from the field, but W&M made 10 more free throws. Another factor was the hidden possessions. The Tribe stayed virtually even with the Huskies on the offensive glass (nine to their 10) and had seven fewer turnovers.
“We talk all the time about the possession game,” Fischer said. “It’s a huge, huge part of the game who can get the possessions. Obviously, then you’ve got to be able to capitalize with quality possessions.”
In three of its last four losses, W&M had let the game get away late. Making plays down the stretch only made Thursday night’s win more special.
“All of those games that were close, and we weren’t able to clinch, were great opportunities for us to learn lessons,” Collier said. “As you can see, we were able to apply that tonight and come out with a victory. Hopefully, we can continue on that path.”
Next for the Tribe is Hofstra (9-7, 2-1), which defeated Hampton University 67-51 Thursday night down I-64.