BALTIMORE (TribeAthletics.com) - With its best offensive performance of the season, William & Mary created enough distance to withstand a late Towson charge and hold on for an 84-74 win Saturday in Baltimore.
The Tribe shot a season-best 58 percent from the field despite missing five of its final seven attempts. The Tigers cut a 25-point lead to eight twice in the final 4½ minutes, but W&M regained its composure by icing the game from the free throw line.
Freshman Connor Kochera led W&M (5-7, 3-4 Colonial Athletic Association) with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 3-of-6 from deep. Quinn Blair finished with a career-high 19 points and six rebounds. Luke Loewe scored 16 and went 7-of-7 from the free throw line, 4-of-4 in the final 3:20.
"That's as well as we've played offensively in a long time," W&M coach Dane Fischer said. "Our guys did a great job of letting the ball work and taking really good shots when they were available. … That was carry-over from a great week of practice.
"The biggest thing we've talked about is keeping the ball moving and letting the offense work for great shots. There were a number of possessions when the shot clock got below eight or five, and we kept playing and ended up with some great shots and finishes. That's what we need to do to be a good offensive team."
The last time W&M shot at least 58 percent, Nathan Knight was still around. The Tribe hit 50 percent (6-of-12) from the 3-point arc for the first time since this season's opener at Old Dominion.
Although 14 assists are not a season high, rarely has W&M moved the ball better this season. Eight of its first nine baskets were assisted.
Freshman Jake Milkereit, who hadn't played the previous two games, provided a spark off the bench with a team-high four assists, three in the first half.
"He gave us a huge lift today," Fischer said. "We talk offensively that it's just about making the right play. He did that time and time again today and it led to some assists for him. I was really pleased with the way he took what the defense gave him."
William & Mary's 84 points are a season high for a regulation game. The Tribe went 20-of-22 from the free throw line and is 55-of-65 (85 percent) in its last three games.
W&M also got a strong day from its post duo of Ben Wight and Mehkel Harvey. Wight had nine points, seven in the first half, along with two rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes. Harvey finished with eight points, eight rebounds, and four blocked shots in 22 minutes.
"Our guards did a nice job finding them early in the game, especially for some easy ones around the basket," Fischer said. "As important was our ability to rebound against those guys, and I thought Mehkel especially went up and got some tough ones in the second half."
With a 13-0 run, William & Mary took a 23-10 lead on Wight's 3-point play with 10:35 remaining in the first half. The Tribe led 44-29 at halftime and took its biggest advantage, at 69-44, with 10:16 remaining.
At which point Towson (3-8, 2-4) began coming to. Over the next 5 minutes and 46 seconds, the Tigers outscored the Tribe 23-6. Towson went 8-of-12 from the field, 4-of-5 from deep, in that stretch. And the Tribe had five of its 14 turnovers.
"They hit a couple of tough shots over the top," Fischer said. "Some of those shots that we were saying 'they've got to make these 40 minutes to beat us,' they hit a few. And they changed up their defensive scheme, which got us out of rhythm.
"It was good to see our guys be able to respond to that. We certainly have not been in a lot of positions where we had a huge lead."
In fact, it was the first time since Dec. 16 against Hampton that the Tribe led by double digits.
Game two of this weekend series is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. One area W&M hopes to improve on between now and then is offensive rebounding. Towson had a 17-4 advantage on the offensive glass and outscored W&M in second-chance points 19-4 Saturday.