William and Mary built on its season–opening momentum Friday, toppling American 79-70 thanks to a pair of double-doubles from senior forwards Andy van Vliet and Nathan Knight. The team fought back from a 16-point deficit in the first half to enter the break down just two and went on to outscore the Eagles by 11 in the second half.
The Eagles came out red-hot in the opening minutes, draining five of their first eight threes to stun the College with a 24-8 advantage with 11 minutes, 55 seconds to play in the first half. The Tribe proceeded to inch its way back and a 14-0 scoring run led by graduate student guard Bryce Barnes, sophomore guard Thornton Scott and Knight eventually tied it back up with under two minutes in the period.
The College kept its foot on the gas to begin the second half, with an 11-0 run making it 49-42, seven points of which came from the foul line. The Eagles didn’t go quietly, however, fighting back with an 8-0 run of their own to retake the lead nearly midway through the second half.
Continuing the game of runs, the College netted eight straight points to retake the lead for good as the clock ticked under 10 minutes remaining. A hook shot from Van Vliet and a triple from junior guard Luke Loewe helped secure a six-point advantage with 8 minutes, 44 seconds to go. The Eagles managed to cut the lead to two points, 61-59, but a final 8-2 scoring push from the Tribe put the game out of reach.
Two scores from Knight extended the lead to 75-65 with just over a minute to play and the College won comfortably by nine.
First–year head coach Dane Fischer became just the eighth coach in school history to win his first two games. He emphasized the importance of rebounding from the early Eagles onslaught after the game.
“I thought that was a really good effort for us, and we were tested early, which was good,” Fischer said. “American came out and they played great at the start. I thought that we didn’t play as well as we could have offensively especially, and on the defensive end, I think they made some of the shots we were hoping they would take, and I thought it got our guys a little on their heels. We rallied together, I thought there was great fight, great camaraderie, and obviously able to come out with the win, which was great.”
The Tribe shot 48 percent from the field relative to the Eagles’ 38 percent and converted 28 more points in the paint than American. It forced 13 Eagle giveaways and converted them into 15 points off turnovers.
Knight finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Van Vliet added 18 on 70 percent shooting as well as 10 boards of his own. Scott finished with 13 points and six assists; Loewe contributed 11 and four boards, and Barnes scored eight with five assists.
Fischer noted Knight and van Vliet’s dominance extended even beyond the stat sheet.
“Andy and Nate were unbelievable,” Fischer said. “When you’ve got one guy like that, it’s hard to guard. When you’ve got two, it’s a real problem, and they both really exerted their will on the game, especially in the second half.”
The Tribe returns to action Nov. 12 in Spartanburg, South Carolina when it takes on Wofford in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Classic.