ANNAPOLIS (Md.) — William & Mary started three sophomores and two freshmen Wednesday night. Navy countered with three juniors and two seniors.
The game, particularly the opening eight minutes of the second half, exposed that disparity.
The Midshipmen (Mids) turned a six-point halftime lead into a 75-56 win over the Tribe at Alumni Hall in Annapolis, Md. All of W&M’s scoring came from its freshmen and sophomore class. A senior and junior combined for 31 of Navy’s points.
The Mids led 36-30 at the break, but William & Mary was its own worst enemy to start the second half. On its first nine possessions, the Tribe went 0-of-6 from the floor, 0-of-4 from the free throw line, and had four turnovers.
Navy turned that into a 15-3 run and led by at least 12 points the rest of the way.
“The second half is what did us in,” W&M coach Dane Fischer said. “We needed to make those plays as we were finding our way. We kept battling, which was great to see, but we couldn’t really get back in it after that.
Missing senior Quinn Blair with an injury, W&M started sophomores Ben Wight, Connor Kochera and Yuri Covington along with freshmen Tyler Rice and Langdon Hatton. It was the first career start for Hatton, who at 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds is the Tribe’s biggest player.
Hatton usually comes off the bench to spell Wight, but this time they played together. Hatton led all scorers with 17 points, which matched his career high, on 7-of-17 shooting. Wight had 12 points and 13 rebounds for his first career double-double.
“There are a lot of positives we can build off,” Fischer said. “I thought Ben Wight and Langdon Hatton playing together was a really good look for us and helped establish ourselves down low.”
Rice scored a career-high 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
W&M outrebounded Navy on the offensive end 16-13 led by Wight with nine. The Mids offset that by outscoring the Tribe 17-12 on second-chance opportunities.
Two more telling stats: The Tribe was outscored 29-13 off turnovers and missed 10 of its 16 layup attempts. Although Hatton and Wight combined for 29 points, W&M was outscored 42-20 in the paint.
A big issue was that Kochera, last season’s CAA Rookie of the Year, scored three points on one field goal attempt in 28 minutes.
“He was clearly the focus on their scouting report,” Fischer said. “They really tried to take him away, and they did all night. We’ve got to find ways to get him more involved.”
The Tribe got off to one of its best starts of the season by making five of its first seven shots (including both 3-point attempts) and taking a 12-7 lead 4½ minutes in. Things cooled off from there, but Navy didn’t take its first lead until 8:54 remained in the first half.
“I think our guys had a really good way about them in the first half, especially when we were scoring and going toe-to-toe with them possession by possession,” Fischer said. “Now, it’s finding a way to sustain that for a full 40.”
NEXT UP: William & Mary will stay on the road for a Saturday afternoon game at Davidson (5-2). The Wildcats defeated Delaware, the CAA’s overwhelming preseason favorite, 93-71 on Nov. 9.
Click below to watch the Post-Game commentary: