Nathan Knight and David Cohn carried William and Mary 39 ½ minutes Saturday afternoon. Connor Burchfield took over from there.
In a hectic finish at Kaplan Arena, Burchfield hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final 22 seconds as the Tribe rallied for a 90-87 win over Hofstra. His first tied the game at 85, and his second gave W&M the lead with 6.8 seconds left.
Knight, who dominated both ends of the floor in 36 grueling minutes, then swatted away Kenny Wormley’s layup with 2.3 seconds remaining to seal it.
Burchfield, who is third nationally at 57 percent from the arc, was only 1-of-3 before his final flurry. But in the final 22 seconds, he hit the two biggest shots of his career.
“It helped a little bit on Dave’s penetration,” Burchfield said, referring to Cohn. “He kicked it to me in the corner and I saw a little bit of daylight.”
A sliver of daylight, if that. Hofstra’s Eli Pemberton was in Burchfield’s shirt as he left fly.
“It was very contested,” Knight said.
Either way, it was part of a wild final half minute of play in a series that often goes down to the wire.
Hofstra led 85-82 and had possession with 29.5 seconds left after Knight was called for traveling. But W&M’s Justin Pierce intercepted the inbounds pass and called an immediate timeout.
Burchfield then came off a Knight screen and took a pass from Cohn along the right wing. His 3-pointer tied the game.
Justin Wright-Foreman, unstoppable all day with 36 points, scored on a runner to put the Pride ahead 87-85 with 13 seconds left. But Cohn pushed it up the floor and found Burchfield in the left corner, directly in front of the Tribe’s bench.
Pemberton never left Burchfield and got a hand in his face. But the corner 3 was all net, giving the Tribe an 88-87 lead with 6.8 seconds left.
Still, a game like this is never over until the handshake. Taking the long inbounds at midcourt, Wormley had a lane to the basket. As he went up with left hand, Knight came over for the block — his eighth of the game to go along with 31 points and 11 rebounds.
“When I saw Wormley get a little bit of daylight,” Knight said, “I knew I had to go take it away from him.”
W&M’s Matt Milon got the rebound and made two free throws with 2.3 seconds left. Hofstra didn’t get off an attempt.
“(I’m) really proud of the heart our guys showed,” Tribe coach Tony Shaver said. “We’re down and out late in the game and the guys just showed heart to find a way to pull it out. The thing I was so impressed with is that in the last two minutes or so, every player on the floor made a big play.
“David’s assists for two 3s, obviously Nate’s blocked shot, Connor’s two 3s, Justin Pierce’s steal, and Matt’s big rebound. Every guy made a big play for this club.”
W&M (8-4, 1-0 CAA) relied on a two-man game to get to that point. Before Burchfield’s late 3s, Knight and Cohn had combined for 57 of the Tribe’s 84 points. They were 21-of-35 from the field. Their teammates were 8-of-21.
Knight’s 31 points matched his career high, which he had scored twice before this season. He was 13-of-21 from the field.
Cohn set a career high with 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field, 8-of-8 from the free throw line. He had seven assists, including the two biggies late, and three steals.
W&M hit 8-of-15 from the 3-point arc — a terrific night for most teams, but not for one that averages 12.2 makes per game. The Tribe went 20-of-25 from the free throw line, exactly the 80 percent it shoots for the season.
It was the first of 18 CAA games this season, so nobody in the green and gold was overstating the importance of Saturday’s win. But beating a quality team to start the conference schedule is always welcomed.
“We knew this game was very important coming in,” Knight said. “Every CAA game is a dogfight — especially Hofstra. They beat us here last year. We knew we had to come in and play Tribe basketball, team basketball, and never give up on each other.”
Johnson can be reached by phone at 757-247-4649. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveJohnsonDP.