With 14 minutes left in William and Mary’s Friday night matchup against Atlantic Coast Conference opponent North Carolina State for both teams’ season opener, the scoreboard read 66-43. Simply looking at the names of the teams most would assume the Wolfpack, who made the Sweet 16 last season, held a commanding advantage. However, in a stunning turn of events, it was the visiting Tribe who were blowing out the hosts in Raleigh, N.C., ultimately pulling off the non-conference upset 85-68.
“I’m really proud of our competitive spirit tonight; we really competed hard,” head coach Tony Shaver said to Tribe Athletics. “We used to play these games for a check honestly, and we think we can win them now…We know we have to play well to do it, but we believe we belong.”
The College (1-0) proved it belonged from the tip-off, storming out to a 23-5 lead within the first six minutes, causing N.C. State (0-1) to take a timeout at the 14:10 mark. The Tribe got out in transition and made the Wolfpack pay, scoring 13 fast-break points in the first half while shooting a scorching 53.3 percent from the field to claim a 51-35 halftime advantage.
I’m really proud of our competitive spirit tonight; we really competed hard,” head coach Tony Shaver said to Tribe Athletics. “We used to play these games for a check honestly, and we think we can win them now…We know we have to play well to do it, but we believe we belong.”
A big reason behind the early success for the College was the strong play of sophomore point guard David Cohn, a transfer from Colorado State playing in his first game for the Tribe. The major question facing Shaver and his staff coming into this season was who would take over at point for superstar point guard Marcus Thornton ’15. With sophomore guard Oliver Tot sidelined due to injury and sophomore guard Michael Schlotman still limited after suffering a concussion a few weeks before, Cohn stepped into the starting lineup and immediately made an impact.
David really gave us a great spurt,” Shaver told Tribe Athletics. “He’s a really explosive player, and I think you saw his quickness tonight against Barber, who’s one of the quicker players in the country.”
After both teams failed to convert on their first two possessions, Cohn grabbed the rebound following N.C. State guard Anthony Barber’s missed jump shot and sprinted up the court. He blazed past Barber and finished with a nifty underhand layup, giving the Tribe the initial advantage and setting the tone for the Tribe’s effective transition game. Cohn finished the night with nine points, seven rebounds and five assists, impressing Shaver with his performance.
“David really gave us a great spurt,” he told Tribe Athletics. “He’s a really explosive player, and I think you saw his quickness tonight against Barber, who’s one of the quicker players in the country.”
The College’s offensive attack was spearheaded by the team’s two juniors, guards Daniel Dixon and Omar Prewitt, a predictable development given their offensive contributions last season. Dixon led the way with a team-high 19 points, 14 of which came during the Tribe’s dominant first half. Primarily an outside shooter for his first two collegiate seasons, he not only showed off his three point stroke but also an improved ability to finish inside, hitting three of his four field goal attempts from inside the arc. The rest of the team followed Dixon’s example of driving to the basket, outscoring the Wolfpack in the paint 40-28.
Prewitt finished with 17 points, scoring inside, outside and at the free throw line, hitting five of six from the charity stripe. He also made his presence felt on defense, grabbing five of his six rebounds on that end while recording two steals.
Every time tonight they made a little bit of a run at us and we needed a stop, it seemed like Terry got his hand on it, got a rebound for us,” Shaver told Tribe Athletics. “He helps us win in so many ways.”
William and Mary created 10 steals total on the night, five of which were credited to ever-reliable senior forward Terry Tarpey. Tarpey stuffed the stat sheet, scoring 11 points and leading the team with eight rebounds (matched by fellow senior forward Sean Sheldon) while dishing out three assists. After the game Shaver lauded his captain’s play.
“Every time tonight they made a little bit of a run at us and we needed a stop, it seemed like Terry got his hand on it, got a rebound for us,” Shaver told Tribe Athletics. “He helps us win in so many ways.”
The supporting cast chipped in as well, with Sheldon adding eight points to his eight-rebound performance, while sophomore guards Connor Burchfield and Greg Malinowski tallied eight and six points, respectively. Sophomore forward Jack Whitman slammed home two dunks in the second half to help maintain the Tribe’s double-digit lead, and freshman forward Hunter Seacat scored the first three points of his collegiate career. When the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read 85-68 in favor of the College, an unthinkable score two hours prior.
William and Mary continues its season-opening road trip Tuesday night at Liberty. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m., and will be broadcast on ESPN3 and the Big South Network, as well as regionally on MASN.