It was not a good first half for Davidson’s standout guards on the injury front as Jack Gibbs and Brian Sullivan both had to leave the game briefly with leg problems after falling to the floor.
But it was the team height and rebounding of host George Washington that made the difference, as Davidson fell 79-69 on Wednesday in an Atlantic 10 Conference contest. GW won the battle of the boards 38-29, including 13 offensive rebounds, and got to the foul line 17 times in the second half.
With the win, GW improved to 17-5 overall and 6-3 in the conference as Patricio Garino had 17 points and Tyler Cavanaugh, a transfer from Wake Forest, had 16 points. Guard Joe McDonald added 9 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for the hosts.
Davidson, which trailed by eight points in the first half, fell to 12-8, 4-5 despite 25 points from Gibbs, 13 from Sullivan and 11 from Peyton Aldridge. Gibbs missed less than a minute after hurting his ankle, while Sullivan played 34 minutes after hurting his knee.
Sullivan hit a free throw to tie the game at 45 with 15:30 left in the game. Davidson took its first lead of the second half with 11:36 left as Gibbs made two free throws to give the Wildcats a lead of 52-51. But GW took a lead of 59-54 on a basket and free throw by Garino with 9:45 left.
Garino’s basket with 3:04 left gave the Colonials a lead of 74-64, but Davidson cut the lead to 74-69 on a 3-pointer by Gibbs with 1:34 left. GW got two free throws from Tyler Cavanaugh with 1:06 to go, and a dunk by Yuta Watanabe (13 points) closed the deal with 50 seconds left to make it 78-69.
Gibbs, who entered the game as the fourth-leading scorer in the nation at 25.5 points per contest, fell awkwardly in the front court after a pass early on. He left the contest with 15:39 remaining in the first half. His left leg was checked out by athletic trainer Chris Hagemann, and he stayed on the bench once play resumed but returned shortly thereafter.
A few minutes later, with 8:08 left in the first half, Sullivan fell near the foul line while on defense. He hobbled off the court holding his left knee and was checked out by Hagemann. Both Gibbs and Sullivan returned to action in the first half and had 7 points at the break. GW led 39-33 at intermission.
Three who mattered
Jack Gibbs: The Davidson standout entered the game averaging a league-high 26.6 points per contest in eight Atlantic 10 games and a league-best 6.5 assists in those games. He fell early in the game and returned after missing a few seconds of action. Gibbs had 18 points in the second half.
Tyler Cavanaugh: The GW junior transfer from Wake Forest, averaging 16.9 points at game time, made a field goal and free throw to give his team a lead of 33-27 with 5:00 left in the first half. He added six rebounds and was 6 of 13 from the field while scoring 16 points.
Brian Sullivan: The Wildcats senior guard fell with 8:08 left in the first half and held his left knee as he was checked out on the bench. Sullivan, averaging 13.8 points per contest, returned in a few minutes and his field goal gave Davidson a lead of 25-22 with 7:24 left in the first half. He had three assists and no turnovers in the game with 13 points and 3 assists.
▪ The Wildcats had not one but two of their top players leave the game with leg problems in the first half. Jack Gibbs went down with 15:39 to go in the first half, and Brian Sullivan left the game for a few minutes after he hurt his left knee with 8:08 left in the first half.
▪ The Wildcats entered the game shooting 84 percent from the foul line in conference games, the best mark in the Atlantic 10 and 12th-best in the nation. But they shot just once from the charity stripe in the first half and ended the night 10 of 14 from the line.
▪ The first half was played quickly as the team combined for just eight turnovers, five free throws and nine fouls.
▪ Davidson plays Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Duquesne. The Dukes will not have played since beating St. Louis 78-67 on Saturday.
▪ Less than 2 miles away from GW, former Davidson star Steph Curry and Golden State played at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night. Golden State, the defending NBA champions, are slated to visit President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday.
▪ Davidson entered the night alone in seventh place in the Atlantic 10 while GW was tied with St. Bonaventure for fourth.
▪ Among the NBA scouts on hand was Brooklyn’s Bob Ferry, the former general manager of the Washington Bullets.
They said it
▪ “They are fine. They are tough kids. They have fought through injuries all season. It is heartbreaking to see (injuries) happen to those kids.” – Davidson coach Bob McKillop said of Jack Gibbs and Brian Sullivan
▪ “They are a superb rebounding team. They beat Virginia here. They are a very good team.” – McKillop said of GW
▪ “They are not really a shot-blocking team. We tried to attack the rim and get some free throws and tire them out a little bit. It was really about our team defense. For the most part we were focused more on defense. That is what our bread and butter has always been. We have to willing to take a charge and help each other out. I thought we did that tonight.” – GW coach Mike Lonergan
▪ “I just jammed my ankle a little bit. It happens all of the time. I will be fine. It would take a lot to keep me out of there.” – Davidson guard Jack Gibbs of his first-half injury
▪ “They started off getting second chance points and getting rebounds. We were just not tough enough to keep them out of there.” – Gibbs
▪ “We thought we could dominate the glass. We are a good rebounding team. If we could do that, it would put us in a good position.” – GW guard Joe McDonald