The first 12 minutes of Davidson’s game against Virginia Commonwealth put the Wildcats in a deep hole.
They nearly made up for that over the final 28 minutes, eventually falling to the Atlantic 10-leading Rams 79-69 on Friday night at Belk Arena.
Jack Gibbs scored a game-high 37 points, Brian Sullivan added 12 and Andrew McAuliffe had 10 off the bench for Davidson (12-7, 4-4), who struggled in the first half and fell behind by as many as 22 points.
However, the Wildcats turned things around in the final eight minutes, cutting Virginia Commonwealth’s lead to 38-28 at the break on Peyton Aldridge’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
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Davidson made up even more ground in the second half, pulling within 57-55 on Gibbs’ 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 47 seconds remaining.
But the Rams (16-5, 8-0) went on a 19-6 run over the next 5 1/2 minutes, and Davidson could pull no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
Three who mattered
Jack Gibbs: Nation’s fourth-leading scorer (24.8 points per game) exceeded his average Friday, going 11 of 20 from the field (6 of 12 on 3-pointers) and 6 of 7 from the free throw line. But he also had nine of the Wildcats’ 16 turnovers.
Andrew McAuliffe: Came close to equaling his career high in scoring, and did equal his career best in rebounding (seven).
JeQuan Lewis: Led Rams with 22 points on 7 of 17 shooting (including 3 of 6 3-pointers) and 5 of 6 from the line. Also had five assists and four steals to offset five turnovers.
▪ The Wildcats struggled tremendously over the first 12 minutes of the first half, making just 2 of 17 from the field (including 1 of 10 3-pointers) and turning the ball over eight times as VCU pulled ahead 29-7.
▪ The Rams are fifth in the nation in turnover margin (plus-5.4 per game), and forced Davidson into an above-average 16 turnovers Friday, 11 off steals. But VCU also turned the ball over 17 times, so the points off turnovers (22-21) was nearly equal.
▪ The Rams also dominated the Wildcats inside, with a 45-26 rebounding advantage. They also had a 13-4 edge on the offensive glass. That led to VCU scoring 46 points in the paint, 13 second-chance points and 13 points off the fast break.
▪ Davidson finished the game shooting 41.4 percent from the field (24 of 58), making 11 of 31 3-pointers and 10 of 12 from the line. But the Rams shot 50 percent (31 of 62), made 5 of 13 3s and 12 of 19 from the line.
▪ Melvin Johnson added 21 points (15 in the first half) for the Rams. Mo Alie-Cox had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Justin Tillman 10.
▪ Before tipoff, Gibbs received a game ball commemorating his 1,000th career point on Jan. 16 against Massachusetts. He is the second player this season (Sullivan was the first) and the 48th in program history to reach that mark.
▪ Sign it could be a good night for the Wildcats – the team’s mascot swished in a shot from midcourt before the pre-game warmups. Of course, it didn’t rub off on Davidson’s players until later in the first half.
▪ Coaches for both teams were wearing athletic shoes during Friday’s game as part of Coaches vs. Cancer’s “Suits and Sneakers Week,” which runs through Sunday.
▪ The Wildcats hit the road for their next two A-10 games, playing at George Washington on Wednesday and at Duquesne on Feb. 6.
They said it
▪ “It started out as not a very good basketball game, but it became a great, competitive match. We did some very good things in the second half … but we didn’t have enough gas.” – Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
▪ “They hit us first. They came out ready to go. They were getting the loose balls more. They came out the aggressor, and we let it happen. You can’t fault our effort … but at times, they controlled the way we played offensively.” – Sullivan.
▪ “We struggled in the first 12 minutes, but we had the toughness to fight back at the end of the first half. We were feeling good, and we wanted to keep that momentum going in the second half.” – McAuliffe.