Davidson learned a hard lesson about life in the Atlantic 10 during a 75-70 loss against Saint Joseph’s on Saturday at Hagan Arena.
The Wildcats led by 13 points at halftime, only to see that advantage quickly vanish early in the second half. That 20-3 Hawks run would be too much for Davidson (14-5, 5-3) to overcome, although the Wildcats made it close at the end.
“In this conference your effort has to be there all 40 minutes,” said Davidson junior guard Brian Sullivan. “If you’re lackluster for any amount of time, these teams are good enough that they will make you pay.”
Davidson led the Hawks (9-11, 3-5) 41-28 at halftime. The Wildcats were playing the way they have for much of the season, explosively on offense (making 47.1 percent of their 3-pointers) and holding Saint Joseph’s to 34.4 percent shooting.
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But the Wildcats weren’t ready to play in the second half and, as Sullivan said, they paid for it.
Saint Joseph’s scored on 12 of its first 14 possessions and took a 46-44 lead whensophomore forward DeAndre Bembry (21 points, 17 rebounds) scored on a layup with 12 minutes, 58 seconds left.
“We started the second half with some good defensive play, then we got a layup and got things flowing,” said Bembry, a Charlotte native who started his high school basketball career at Independence and Rocky River before his family moved to New Jersey. “Then we got some consecutive stops and it really started flowing.”
Davidson didn’t handle the Saint Joseph’s rally well.
“They hit us in the face,” said Sullivan. “It gave their gym, their team, life.”
Everything appeared to be going right for the Hawks, no more so than when forward Isaiah Miles banked in a 3-pointer as the shot-clock expired and was fouled by Davidson’s Jordan Watkins. His four-point play gave Saint Joseph’s a 65-57 lead with 2:59 left.
The Hawks’ lead reached 11 points with 1:44 remaining before the Wildcats made a last-ditch effort to salvage the game. A 3-pointer by Sullivan cut Saint Joseph’s lead to 72-70 with 21.5 seconds left. But the Hawks made enough free throws (six of 10) down the stretch to escape.
Freshman forward Peyton Aldridge’s 24 points led the Wildcats. Sullivan added 17 and guard Tyler Kalinoski contributed 15 points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Davidson coach Bob McKillop attributed the second-half collapse to his team’s inexperience.
“We break down the game into 10 four-minute rounds and that first round of the second half was a knockout punch to us,” said McKillop. “We came out flat. Some of the younger guys weren’t on the same page as the older guys during that stretch. They caught us in transition and made plays.
“But I’m proud of the effort of our guys, who are very cognizant and aware that we can’t allow those kinds of rounds at the beginning of the game and the second half, as well as at the end of the first half and the end of the game.”