Despite trailing by as many as nine points and shooting 2-of-17 from three, William and Mary rode a resilient second-half comeback to defeat Northeastern 59-58 on a Nathan Knight layup with 1.5 seconds left.
After suffering two early turnovers and missing its first five shots, the Tribe quickly fell behind 7-0 after just three minutes of action. The Tribe regained its footing after that, with a floater from senior center Nathan Knight plus a three-point play from junior guard Luke Loewe to bring it back within two. Two more jumpers and three free throws from the Huskies made it 14-5 amidst the Tribe hitting just two field goals over its first 13 attempts.
A jumper from freshman wing Miguel Ayesa cut the lead to seven and, after a Husky layup, sophomore forward Quinn Blair nailed the College’s first three–pointer of the contest to make it 16-10 with just under 11 minutes to play in the half. After two more Blair free throws, Husky guard Jordan Roland made his fourth shot of the half to extend the advantage back to eight and give him 12 points for the game. Graduate guard Bryce Barnes then converted a layup and another in transition to pull the Tribe back within four with six minutes, 25 seconds to play in the half. Roland then hit a left-handed floater and a dunk in transition to make it 24-16, but senior forward Andy Van Vliet countered with a hook shot for his first field goal in seven tries.
Two free throws apiece from graduate transfer guard Tyler Hamilton and sophomore guard Thornton Scott then pulled the Tribe within two, the closest it had been since the 15:53 mark in the half. Northeastern guard Bolden Brace then buried the Huskies’ second three of the game and the teams traded baskets to make it 29-24 Huskies at halftime.
The Tribe ended up shooting 25 percent from the field and just 1-of-10 from deep. The Huskies scored 10 points off six Tribe turnovers and Roland led all scorers with 16. Knight, Van Vliet and Loewe were a combined 3-of-20 from the floor.
Knight scored the first six points for the College to begin the second half and pull the Tribe within one, 31-30, with 18 minutes to go. The Huskies converted layups on their next two possessions to extend the lead back out to five, but a putback layup from Blair and a driving finish from Loewe cut the lead back to one with less than 14 minutes remaining. Blair then converted a hook shot to give the College its first lead of the night and Loewe secured a steal to send the greened-out Kaplan into a frenzy.
Roland hit a jumper to quiet the crowd and Barnes responded with a layup to regain the lead. After a Northeastern floater, Hamilton converted an and-one to make it 41-39 with 11 minutes to go. A Van Vliet free throw and two-handed dunk from Knight then gave the College its largest lead of the night, but a corner triple from Husky guard Guilien Smith brought it back to 44-42. Van Vliet then hit two more free throws and a hook shot to give the College a six-point lead with less than nine minutes to go. Smith then converted an and-1 for the Huskies and a layup off a Tribe turnover closed the gap to one.
Blair made his fourth basket of the night coming out of a time-out and Loewe made one of two free throws, making the College 16/18 from the stripe on the night. Husky forward Maxime Boursiquot then responded with a driving layup to retake the lead for Northeastern, 52-51, with four minutes left. Knight, who had been on the bench with four fouls since the 8:27 mark, made a free throw to tie it, but two Husky layups put the College back down four with less than three minutes to go. A Husky free throw extended the gap to five, but Loewe canned the Tribe’s second three of the evening on the following possession to cut the lead to two. After a defensive stop, Knight drew a foul in the lane and sank the Tribe’s 18th and 19th foul shots of the game to tie it at 57 with 1:25 to go.
The defense forced another Husky miss and Barnes called time with 48 ticks left on the clock. Knight missed a fadeaway from the elbow and Brace drew a foul on the other end. He sank one of two shots to put the College down one with 6.8 seconds to play.
Scott inbounded from the opposite baseline to Knight, who muscled past Boursiquot and took it coast to coast for the layup that put the College ahead for good, 59-58.
Knight confirmed after the game that the scripted play on the game-winning possession was run as called.
“It was drawn up for me to go make something happen,” Knight said. “That’s one thing we love about this team; we all trust each other, and coach and my teammates trusted me to go out there and make that play.”
After putting up 16 points in the first half, the Tribe held Roland to just two points in the second half on 1-of-4 shooting, which Knight and head coach Dane Fischer attributed to Loewe’s consistent pressure.
“Huge credit to Luke Loewe, probably one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve ever seen in my life,” Knight said.
Blair finished with 11 points and discussed the team’s mental efforts to stay composed despite a difficult shooting effort, including finishing 2-of-17 from three.
“Coach talks about never getting too high or too low,” Knight said. “That’s like our big thing — just trying to stay even-keel. Shots didn’t go in for the most part today, but that means we had to play better on the defensive end of the floor, and I think we did that.”
Fischer noted that the poor shooting was emblematic of several of the team’s previous losses but observed an improved response this time around.
“I was really proud of our guys today because I think it was a similar offensive performance from us that we had at Towson,” Fischer said. “But I thought we really did a good job of trying to make some toughness plays, getting on the offensive glass, getting ourselves to the foul line, and obviously at the end of the game Nate made a huge play to get over the hump.”
The Tribe returns to action Saturday, Feb. 1, when it takes on Hofstra at 4 p.m. in Kaplan arena.