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WATCH: William & Mary men's hoops pulls out thrilling 63-62 win over Hofstra

William & Mary Tribe men's basketball
Posted at 12:40 AM, Dec 30, 2021

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (TribeAthletics.com) - All night long, William & Mary battled. But when Hofstra's Jalen Ray knocked down a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 31 seconds remaining, the prevailing thought in Kaplan Arena had to have been "Well, nice effort, but not quite enough."

Instead, in a stunning sequence, the Tribe scored four points in the final 15.5 seconds to upset the Pride 63-62 Wednesday night. Ben Wight's [tribeathletics.com] basket brought W&M to within one, and Julian Lewis' [tribeathletics.com] layup put the Tribe ahead with 10.9 seconds left.

After Hofstra's Aaron Estrada missed a contested runner, William & Mary had its second win of the season — which just happened to come in its Colonial Athletic Association opener.

"That was certainly a gutty win and a terrific effort from our guys from start to finish," Tribe coach Dane Fischer [tribeathletics.com] said. "In the huddle, we said 'Anybody can go make a play now. If the play is yours to make, go make it with confidence.'

"I think our guys did that. For them to get the job done and get the win is pretty significant for us."

Any win would have been huge on the heels of a 1-12 start. This one came against Hofstra, which defeated No. 24 Arkansas a week before Christmas and played No. 15 Houston and No. 20 Maryland to the wire.

W&M held the Pride to 30.2% shooting, 17.6% (6-of-34) from the 3-point arc — both season lows. Coming in, the Tribe's opponents were hitting 47.6% of their shots, 35.5% from deep. W&M also held Hofstra 18 points below its season average.

The Tribe did it all without senior Quinn Blair [tribeathletics.com], its third-leading scorer, and reserve guard Rainers Hermanovskis [tribeathletics.com]. Both were in health and safety protocol. Their status for Friday's home game against Northeastern is uncertain.

Fischer's set goals Wednesday night were to limit the turnovers and stop Hofstra from getting to the lane. The Tribe batted .500. William & Mary turned the ball over 22 times, 11 in each half, but outscored the Pride 30-18 in the paint.

"Coach (Nate) Bollinger did a great job with the scouting report and getting the guys ready to go," Fischer said. "We needed to keep the ball out of the paint and make them shoot tough, contested shots. We did a great job of that tonight. They did not have many open looks at all."

The game went back and forth in the second half with neither team leading by more than six points. Hofstra had missed 28 of 32 shots from the 3-point arc until Omar Silverio knocked one down to tie it at 59 with 2:09 remaining, and Ray connected for a 62-59 lead with 31.1 seconds left.

In the huddle during a timeout, Fischer told his team to get the quickest good look. That came when Connor Kochera [tribeathletics.com] fed Wight at the rim to cut the lead to one with 15.5 seconds remaining.

Silverio took the inbounds pass, and Kochera swiped the ball loose. It floated out to Lewis (11 points, eight rebounds) who was guarding Ray near the left elbow. Lewis drove to the rim and, as Silverio backed off, laid it in with 10.9 seconds to go.

Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton decided against the timeout, and the Pride put the ball in Estrada's hands. He took Lewis to the paint and missed a runner over the 6-foot-9 Wight. Hofstra's Abayomi Iyiola had his hands on the rebound but couldn't corral it as time expired.

"It's big for us moving forward," Lewis said. "We're a young group, and we really needed this. This is a great win, but we're still not where we want to be.

"The plan from the beginning was to go out and fight as hard as (we) can and be together as a team. That's what we did."

The Tribe got contributions from all over. Making his first career start, sophomore Jake Milkereit [tribeathletics.com] scored a career-high 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 3-of-6 from deep. Tyler Rice [tribeathletics.com] had 11 points, five assists and two steals.

Kochera was 3-of-9 from the field but had seven rebounds and that XXXL steal. After missing two games with an injury, Brandon Carroll [tribeathletics.com] scored seven points on 2-of-3 shooting from the 3-point arc.

And there was 6-9 senior Mehkel Harvey [tribeathletics.com], who was playing only his second game of the season. Two of his three offensive rebounds came in the second half, and each led to a 3-pointer. That turned out to be six crucial points.

"Huge," Fischer said. "It's great to have him back. … We got contributions really from everybody who played tonight."

Asked what the locker room atmosphere was like, Lewis said "water everywhere." Not only was it the Tribe's first win since Nov. 27, it came against one of the CAA's traditional powers in the conference opener.

Twelve losses before Christmas was difficult to handle, but the Tribe never wavered from pressing on.

"Nobody likes losing a lot, so every practice, we went right at it," Lewis said. "We're getting better as a group piece by piece. We're working together to be the best group we can be. And I feel we're on that path."

UP NEXT: The Tribe hosts another traditional CAA power in Northeastern on New Year's Eve at 2 p.m. The Huskies dropped their CAA opener at Elon, 79-62, on Wednesday night.