After an uncharacteristic, sub-.500 season last year, the Tribe (0-1) looked to win big against Wake Forest (1-0) on Nov. 10 in its 2021–2022 season opener. A win against the team the Tribe historically has been evenly matched with would suggest last year’s events were a one-off: a combination of the strange COVID-19 play combined with the graduation of Nathan Knight. However, the Tribe dropped the away game in a low-scoring bout: 59-77. The 18-point swing suggests bigger problems that the Tribe must tackle as the season continues.
Eight of the Tribe’s 14 players are underclassmen; three are incoming freshmen. In the game against Wake Forest, four out of the five players with the most time on the court and five out of the top six point-scorers were freshmen or sophomores.
The Tribe is a young team and it relies on those younger players for point production and leadership. That youth is a boon. The Tribe can grow and coach the same core players for several seasons, which allows them to be familiar with each others’ play styles and strategies. The inexperience of those young players is also a vice. Against the Deacons, the Tribe allowed 29 points after turnovers (compared to the Deacons’ 13).
The first half of the game was particularly turnover-prone. The Tribe gave up 21 points in the first half alone off steals.
The Tribe also struggled to find the basket at first. They made seven of 29 attempted field goals, and just one of 12 three-pointers. Sophomore forward Ben Wight swished a layup one minute into the half. For the next five minutes, those two points remained the Tribe’s only offensive production. The Deacons had already hit double digits when senior forward Quinn Blair made a jumper at 15:02.
Sophomore guard Connor Kochera found the basket at 10 minutes, scoring the Tribe’s first three-pointer. As a player who averaged over 13 points per game last season, Kochera’s absence from the scoreboard affected the Tribe’s offensive production. Halfway through the first, the Tribe trailed to the Deacons 9-20.
The trend of waiting five minutes between baskets continued for the Tribe. As the Deacons continued to steal the ball, rush the basket and make jumper after jumper, the Tribe waited almost passively.
Freshman guard Tyler Rice brought the Tribe above 10 points with a fastbreak basket with five minutes left in the half. Rice played doggedly. In the play preceding his basket, he had sole possession of the ball for 30 seconds. Rice attempted and missed a jumper, stole the ball back from the Deacons, missed a layup, missed the next rebound, then scored on his fourth attempt. His effort pushed the Tribe for the remainder of the half and the second. Wight scored four more points (two being from free throws) and Kochera banked three (one point from a free throw).
The half ended with a score of 46-18. In the second half, the Tribe mounted a comeback to overcome the almost-thirty point deficit, but the errors at the beginning of the game proved insurmountable.
In the second, the Tribe’s shooting percentage improved greatly. They made 15-28 field goals, and 5-7 three-pointers. Their offensive effort was mirrored by their defensive effort. For example, the Tribe limited Wake Forest to just 18 points in the paint. In the first, Wake Forest had gained 26 from that area.
Wight finished the game with 18 points, leading the Tribe. Rice and Kochera rounded out the scoring with eight apiece.
The Tribe will play its first game at home Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. against American.