Sunday, January 29, 2023

Tribe battles to impressive road win at UNCW

(Tribe Athletics)

WILMINGTON — Wednesday night’s home win over Hampton University gave William & Mary some momentum. The Tribe took that on the road and came away with a win in one of the Colonial Athletic Association’s toughest settings.

In an unusual game that lasted two hours and 44 minutes (with no overtime), the Tribe held on for a 69-67 win over UNC Wilmington Saturday night at Trask Coliseum. Chris Mullins’ layup with 4:01 remaining gave W&M the lead for good, but it had to survive a hectic finish that kept dragging on.

“That was a great win for us in a very disjointed game,” Tribe coach Dane Fischer said. “We had a number of different lineups out there in the course of the game, and with as many stoppages as there were, it was really hard to get into any kind of rhythm.

“I was really proud of how our team hung together in a tough environment and in a tough game in terms of the flow. They did a great job of just playing through it.”

Grad student Anders Nelson and freshman Charlie Williams led the Tribe with 15 points each. It was a career high for Williams, who went 11-of-12 from the free throw line. Ben Wight had 10 points, including a crucial follow with 2:18 remaining.

The Tribe (8-10, 3-2 CAA) won despite being whistled for 35 fouls, which matches the third most in program history and the most ever in a win. Noah Collier, Chris Mullins and Wight all fouled out. Gabe Dorsey, Chase Lowe and Matteus Case each ended the game with four fouls. In total the game featured 59 fouls and 69 free throw attempts.

Wilmington (14-5, 4-2) shot 38% from the field but stayed in contention by making 27 of 41 from the free throw line. The Seahawks scored 16 of their final 23 points from the stripe.

“We really, really guarded in the second half — outside of fouling, obviously,” Fischer said. “We made it really tough for them to get good looks in the halfcourt and kept them out of transition.”

W&M led 31 of the game’s 40 minutes but never by more than four points in the second half. Nelson’s two free throws made it 68-64 with 12 seconds remaining, but Trazarien White went 2-for-2 seven seconds later.

After Jake Milkereit’s free throw made it a three-point game, W&M fouled White as he crossed midcourt with a 2.1 seconds remaining. White made his first and (presumably) intentionally missed the second. A scrap for the rebound went out of bounds off the Seahawks, and after an officials’ review, a second was put on the clock.

W&M was fouled before the ball was inbounded but missed both free throws. Following UNCW’s final timeout, the Seahawks needed to go the length of the floor, but threw the ball away to end the game and give W&M the victory.

“One of the best things this team did throughout the course of the game is have such a collective effort for the task at hand,” Fischer said. “Guys communicated with one another through every timeout, every late-game situation, and there was a lot of them. They really did a great job of getting it done today.”

After turning the ball over a season-high 15 times in the win over Hampton, the Tribe had only nine Saturday. Fischer gave much of the credit to freshman walk-on guard Miles Hicks.

“In practice (Friday), he gave us an unbelievable look in facing man-to-man pressure,” Fischer said. “He really helped us get prepared for that.”

With Wight and Collier limited to just 11 first-half minute due to foul trouble, Williams came up big in his first minutes since Dec. 31. The freshman bigman scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half, helping the Tribe to as much as an eight-point lead with less than four minutes left.

The Seahawks used a 13-0 run over a 3:16 stretch, including seven at the free throw line, to take a 39-36 lead into the locker room.

Next for the Tribe is a Monday afternoon MLK Day game at No. 22 Charleston (18-1, 6-0), whose only loss came to then-No. 1 North Carolina on Nov. 11. The Cougars defeated Elon 78-60 Saturday.

“We’ve got an unbelievable opponent Monday in Charleston,” Fischer said. “We’ll get the guys off their feet tonight, get some rest, get them hydrated, get some food, and we’ve got to have all hands on deck Monday.”

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