Davidson was nearly unstoppable in the final seven minutes of its Atlantic10 opener Saturday against Richmond.
It was what happened earlier that cost the Wildcats dearly in an 82-80 loss to the Spiders.
Down 73-56 following a 3-pointer by Richmond’s T.J. Cline with 7:01 remaining, the Wildcats battled back. And they came a few inches short of fighting all the way back.
Davidson (7-5, 0-1 A-10) trailed 82-79 when Jon Gudmundsson was fouled by Richmond’s De’Mont Buckingham near midcourt with four seconds to play. It gave Gudmundsson a one-and-one free-throw opportunity, and he made the first shot.
The Wildcats’ only hope was for Gudmundsson to intentionally miss the second shot – which he did – and for a teammate to tip in the miss. Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge flicked the ball, but it bounced off the back of the rim.
“The plan was for Jon to miss low, and for one of us to get our hands on the ball,” Aldridge said. “I was able to tip it, but it didn’t go in.”
But the Wildcats dug themselves a deep hole much earlier.
After leading early in the game, Davidson fell behind shortly before the half and trailed 39-36 at intermission. Then the Spiders (7-6, 1-0) blew open a big lead, making nine of their first 10 second-half shots. Meanwhile, Davidson had problems with its shooting and ball-handling.
The Wildcats showed signs of life midway through the second half and closed to 67-54, but they missed a long 3-pointer and then committed a turnover on their next possession. A few minutes later, it was 73-56 – and then the Wildcats began their rally.
“There was a lot of emotion involved,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “We had the momentum, and they (Spiders) became cautious. We started operating more efficiently on offense and worked harder on defense.”
Davidson was still down 81-73 with about a minute left but closed the gap on a 3-pointer by Aldridge and a 3-point play by Gibbs with 25 seconds remaining. Meanwhile, Richmond was missing the front end of a pair of one-and-one foul-shooting opportunities.
It was 81-79 when Davidson got the ball and called a timeout with 11 seconds left. Gibbs then took an off-balance 3-pointer that hit the front of the rim.
“I didn’t make a good decision there,” Gibbs said.
Richmond got the rebound and built its lead to 82-79 when Julius Johnson made a foul shot with four seconds left.
That set up the game’s final moments.
3 who mattered
Peyton Aldridge (Davidson): He scored 21 points, grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds, and had three assists. And his tip-in attempt in the final second nearly tied the game.
T.J. Cline (Richmond): In addition to scoring 19 points, Cline grabbed 10 rebounds and had eight assists, coming close to a triple-double.
Jon Gudmundsson (Davidson): His defensive hustle resulted in eight rebounds and a game-high four steals. He also had a team-high six assists.
▪ Gibbs, Davidson’s leading scorer, tied for the team high in scoring (21 points), but he shot only 38 percent (six of 16) from the floor, including two of six from 3-point range.
▪ Richmond had five players in double figures, led by ShawnDre Jones, with 21 points. Davidson had two in double figures – Gibbs and Aldridge, each with 21.
▪ Aldridge said his team must remember that big comebacks are a double-edged sword. “We’ve got to remember this when we’re ahead, too,” he said.
▪ Richmond’s Cline is the son of legendary basketball coach Nancy Lieberman. She is now an assistant coach with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
▪ It will be Jan. 11 before Davidson is home again (against Fordham). The Wildcats visit George Washington on Thursday and St. Louis next Sunday.
▪ It was Richmond’s best shooting game of the season. The Spiders hit 53.2 percent from the floor. Their previous best was 48 percent in a victory over James Madison.
They said it
“The comeback shows the talent on this team. It’s a team with a lot of fight. But that fight needs to be there for the whole game.” – Davidson coach Bob McKillop.