Defensive-minded William & Mary earns men’s basketball win over Radford

William & Mary didn’t beat a Division I team before the New Year during a 2021-22 season when it won just five games. The Tribe won its second consecutive on Wednesday, beating Radford 62-51 at Kaplan Arena.

The Tribe (3-3) heeded coach Dane Fischer’s call to improve defensively, forcing the Highlanders (3-3) into 16 turnovers. Ten of those were steals as Noah Collier, Ben Wight and Chris Mullins had two thefts apiece.

Mullins led the Tribe with 13 points, while Gabe Dorsey (12), reserve Matteus Case (10) and Noah Collier (10) were also in double figures. No one on Radford reached double figures as Justin Archer scored a team-high nine points and point guard Josiah Jeffers — who entered with 26 assists against just three turnovers — had more turnovers (six) than assists (five).

The Tribe outrebounded the Highlanders 37-29, with Collier nabbing a game-high nine boards. W&M limited Radford to 40.8% shooting from the field.

“We just talked about making a commitment to that [defensive] end of the floor, and our guys have really done that in the last two games,” Fischer said, referring also to the 76-67 win over Army on Saturday. “That’s a really good offensive team and we forced them into some uncharacteristic turnovers and did a good job guarding the 3-point line [where Radford was 3 for 17].”

The Tribe ran out to a 22-12 lead before the Highlanders rallied to cut the margin to 27-26. Dorsey beat the halftime buzzer with a long 3 that sent the Tribe into the locker room at intermission ahead by four points.

Radford tied the game at 42 on a pair of free throws by DaQuan Smith with 12:09 remaining. Collier retaliated with a basket inside on a pass from Anders Nelson, who had a game-high seven assists.

The Tribe pulled away down the stretch with a 20-9 run fueled by Mullins’ seven points. Mullins made all five of his free throws in the final 6:32.

“This year, there’s a different mentality from talking to everyone,” said Mullins, a transfer from Rice who is one of 10 new players on the roster. “Most importantly, we just want to win.”