William and Mary (4-15, 3-3 CAA) continued its solid conference play Saturday, Jan. 22, beating Drexel (8-8, 3-3 CAA) 83-75 to return to .500 within the CAA on the season.
Defense was the hallmark of the win, with the Tribe forcing the Dragons into less than 40% shooting overall including seven for 27 on threes.
“For the vast majority of the game, I thought our guys were just terrific on the defensive end,” head coach Dane Fischer said. “[Drexel’s] Cam Wynter, who is a great player, we really made him work for his opportunities and didn’t let him get going off ball screens. We really protected the paint and did a good job of flying out at shooters.”
The Tribe pushed its lead to 34-28 at intermission and outscored the Dragons by two in the second half to hold on. Fischer emphasized the growth of the team in this area, which has struggled to hold onto leads this season.
“This was really important for us,” Fischer said. “We had a game like this at home when we had the lead against JMU and let it slip away. For us to be in somewhat of a similar situation and hold on is one thing, but it’s a whole other thing to do it on the road.”
Sophomore guard Connor Kochera paced the College with 23 points on 64% shooting. Nineteen of his total came in the second period to keep the Tribe ahead. Sophomore forward Ben Wight contributed 21 and 11 boards, contributing to occupy a major role in the offense.
Graduate transfer Brandon Carroll also had a double-double with 18 and 10.
“He was phenomenal,” Fischer said of Carroll. “He’s really committed himself to the defensive end first. When he goes to rebound, it’s really hard to keep him off the glass with his athleticism. He made a ton of plays to help us today.”
Fischer was proud of the team’s effort on the offensive end, particularly down the stretch.
“I thought our guys were playing with a ton of confidence on offense and made big shots and big plays,” Fischer said. “Obviously, we had trouble with their pressure, but we were able to answer the bell and make a couple of plays down the stretch to get the win.”
The Tribe sputtered initially, falling behind by seven midway through the first quarter, but dialed up the defense after that, holding Drexel to 3/18 shooting to close the half and take a six-point lead.
Following intermission, the College kept its foot on the gas, pouring in shots to extend the advantage to 72-51 with just over seven minutes to play. Drexel responded strong, however, going on a 22-4 rip to make it close once again, 76-73 with about a minute remaining. Free throws down the stretch held the advantage, and the Tribe pulled out its third CAA win of the year and fourth of the season.
The College will next take the court on Tuesday, Jan. 25 against the College of Charleston (9-8, 1-4 CAA) as it attempts to get its conference record above .500 once again.