Friday, Nov. 12, William and Mary (0-2) hosted American (2-0) at Kaplan Arena for their home season opener. Though the score was tight for most of the first, the Tribe ended up losing 62-74.
“I like the fight that we showed,” Head Coach Dane Fischer said in a press conference after the game. “I thought we were close to getting over the hump a number of times, especially in the second half, turn up the pressure a little bit late. I thought we had a lot of good looks from three, just couldn’t get one to go down.”
Free throws were the name of this game. Though the Tribe had the chance to take nine, uncontested throws from the line in the first, they banked only two. The Eagles had just a slightly better percentage, going 2-7 in the first half.
That ratio drastically improved for both teams in the second. The number of free throws increased as well. The Tribe went 18-30 on the night, with sophomore forward Ben Wight contributing 10 points from free throws, while American went 12-20.
Apart from leaving points on the table, the missed free throws killed the momentum. The game began slowly with six combined missed baskets. Wight scored first for the Tribe at the 18-minute mark and was fouled in the process. The Tribe looked to stake its dominance early. Wight’s missed free throw allowed the Eagles to convert on their next possession. Then, they surged into the lead with another layup.
The score stayed tight. Two missed free throws occurred at a time the Tribe trailed by only one point. Those critical moments prevented the Tribe from gaining footing.
“They really hurt us on the post in the first half: Beckton for 13,” Fischer said. “He was the top of the scouting report for us. Plenty to learn from on it, and we’ll do that here as we head into our next one.”
Though the lead changed nine times, the Tribe finished the period, trailing 25-31.
The first ended with the Tribe in striking distance. Eagle guard Stacy Beckton Jr. was relentless, scoring thirteen points in the first. For the Tribe, points were distributed pretty evenly throughout the roster.
The lead did not change again in the game, despite the Tribe attempts at a comeback.
The Tribe played an aggressive defense, but could not convert on steals, turnovers and breakaways once back on their own half of the court. Despite totaling nine steals, the Tribe only converted for 13 points. This comes in comparison to the Eagles who had eight steals, yet 19 points off these turnovers.
“They had six offensive rebounds in the second half, and they were pretty timely–they hurt us when we were making runs,” Fischer said.
Free throws would have helped cushion the Tribe’s cool offense. At the 10-minute mark, the Tribe brought the score within two points — twice — but could not gain momentum to regain the lead.
That being said, Wight scored 14 points for the Tribe, 10 of which came from free throws. Sophomore guard Connor Kochera totaled the next highest points, with 13. Kochera found the net twice, for a total of four points, in the second. Senior forward Quinn Blair, on the other hand, scored seven points in the second before being removed from the game with a leg injury.
Beckton Jr. finished the game with 24 points and two assists. He totaled eight defensive rebounds. His two way play helped the Eagles block Tribe offensive progression and surge ahead.
Going forward, the Tribe will look to improve those technical details.
“We talked about it afterwards,” Fischer said. “We had 16 turnovers, and a number of those were really careless. We got to the free throw line 30 times — which is a great number — but we were 18-30. We gave up six offensive rebounds in the second half, and we let their best player get 24 on 13 shots. We’ve got to get our focus on the things that are going to help you win a game when you don’t shoot a ball well, which clearly, we didn’t do tonight.”
The Tribe will play again on Tuesday, Nov. 17 against Norfolk State. The game will be in Norfolk, Virginia. at 7 p.m.