March 6: 73-60 W vs. UNC-Willmington
What a difference a year makes. While this is undoubtedly true for every team, it proved to work in Tribe men’s basketball fans’ favor on Saturday, as the seventh-seeded Tribe knocked off 10thseed UNC-Wilmington 73-60 in round 1 of the 2021 CAA tournament after losing in the first round of last year’s competition.
In contrast to last year’s game where Tribe failed to lead, this year the team refuse to trail the Seahawks throughout the 40 minutes. They pushed the lead to 12 at halftime and coasted the rest of the way, never truly being challenged for the advantage.
The College was led by 17 points apiece from senior guard Luke Loewe and freshman guard Connor Kochera, with junior forward Quinn Blair pitching in 14 and nine rebounds. Junior center Mekhel Harvey also contributed 10 boards and freshman guard Yuri Covington chipped in eight points.
Among the facets of the game dominated by the team from Williamsburg were points in the paint (40-24), rebounds (45-33), and free throw percentage (91% to 80). The Tribe also overcame shooting just 4-17 from three to lead by as many as 20 in the second half.
Leading the way for the Seahawks were guards Ty Gadsden with 15 points and Joe Pridgen with 12 and eight rebounds. Most notably, however, was standout Seahawk guard Mike Okauru being held to just 10 points on 3-15 shooting, predominately defended by Loewe. Head coach Dane Fischer was highly complimentary of the defensive effort after the game.
“Luke’s an unbelievable defender and did a great job on a terrific player,” Fischer said. “Our guys did a great job of staying in gaps. I thought we had really good focus on the defensive end.”
Loewe stressed the importance of both defense and starting the game off strong, which had been an issue for the team in several contests this year.
“We were just getting stops,” he said. “I mean, our offense will come. But when we get stops, to start the game especially, and don’t let teams get out to a fast start … that just carried over for the rest of the game.”
Fischer praised the team’s mentality heading into the postseason after a tumultuous regular season filled with uncertainty.
“Our overall mindset coming into the game was great,” Fischer said. “It was, ‘Let’s go out there and play as hard as we can right from the start.’ The guys did a really nice job of that. It’s great to come in here and win our first game. I think the guys will have some confidence coming into Sunday, but we’re obviously playing against a terrific team.”
Next up for the Tribe will be the second-seeded Northeastern Huskies, who the Tribe did not have the chance to play this season due to health and safety concerns. The game will once again be broadcast on FloSports and start at 6 p.m.
March 7: 63-47 L vs. Northeastern
Despite a promising first half, William and Mary dropped its second-round Colonial Athletic Association tournament game to Northeastern 63-47 on Sunday.
The College came out hot for the second game in a row, opening up a nine-point lead on the Huskies over midway through the first half, and even held a three-point advantage at halftime, but shot 1 of 10 from three in the second half and only 23% from the field.
The lone double-digit scorers for the night were senior Luke Loewe, who put up 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and junior Quinn Blair, who had 11 while fighting off a shoulder injury during the game.
Scoring was hard to come by apart from that, though, with the freshman rookie-of=the -year duo Connor Kochera and Yuri Covington combining for just nine points on 3-17 shooting and eight turnovers.
After a lackluster first half, Northeastern woke up to begin the second, knocking down nine of its opening 14 attempts in the second half. The Huskies kept the foot on the gas, turning a tight game into a near-blowout and opening up its largest lead of the night (21 points) amidst a 22-4 run. The closest the Tribe got after that was 11.
Head coach Dane Fischer was pleased with the fast start once again.
“I thought we came out like we did last night (against UNC Wilmington) with really good defensive focus and energy, and on offense we were able to get the ball in the paint and get some stuff around the rim,” Fischer said. “In the second half, we just couldn’t get anything going offensively.
However, he noted the effectiveness of the Huskies’ halftime adjustments, disrupting the Tribe’s rhythm.
“(Northeastern) did a great job of trying to take us out of some of our stuff,” Fischer said. “We had some shots around the rim that we certainly needed to make and a couple from the free throw line that didn’t go down. And then they got going with their transition and hit some 3s.”
Loewe also referenced the tale of two halves and the critical momentum shift.
“Obviously, it was two completely different halves,” Loewe said. “We came out a little slow and they went on an early run. They had the momentum, and we struggled to recover from that.”
Loewe does have an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-enabled extensions for winter sport athletes but told press he would wait to decide on that until this season had concluded.
“Weird is the word that comes to mind,” Loewe said of the season. “Playing games with no fans — CAA games are usually packed, and you get momentum from crowds. You feed off that stuff, and it was just weird.”
The Tribe will look to enter next season with new hope and ride the momentum of the singular tournament win and continue to grow the skill of this years’ freshmen. As former editors like to repeat, there’s always next year for the Tribe.