Some losses smart more than others. The sting from Davidson’s 60-59 loss Saturday against George Mason won’t go away anytime soon.
Jack Gibbs provided another high-scoring effort with 30 points and the Wildcats led 57-51 with 2 minutes, 29 seconds left after trailing by 13 points. Just when it appeared Davidson (14-9, 6-6 Atlantic 10) would escape, the Patriots flipped the script.
Jalen Jenkins scored 17 points and his winning putback with 1.9 seconds capped a 9-2 closing run.
“It’s heartbreaking to see our guys, who fought so hard to overcome a 13-point deficit six minutes into the game and then come back in the last four minutes and get the lead,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “They fought valiantly and I’m very proud of them.”
George Mason (9-16, 3-10) had lost two straight and nine of 11, including five in a row at home.
Despite trailing the opening 34 minutes and 49-37 with 12:05 remaining, it appeared the Wildcats would extend their winning streak to three games. Gibbs’ teammates, ineffective most of the game, fueled much of an 18-2 run.
Brian Sullivan sank two 3-pointers during that stretch and Andrew McCauliffe’s layup gave Davidson its first lead 53-51 with 4:50 to play. Two jumpers from Gibbs followed. Stunningly, a win didn’t.
After the Patriots pulled within 59-58, Sullivan missed an open 3-point attempt with 19 seconds left. Jenkins missed his first crack at a winning shot, but he hustled for another, grabbing Marko Gujanicic errant tip-in before softly sinking a layup.
“In the end, they got the rebound that mattered,” Gibbs said. “It sucks, but they just made the plays down the stretch.”
Of the previous eight losses this season, only one, a setback at Saint Louis last month, truly was unsightly based on the opponent’s overall résume and with an eye toward an NCAA tournament at-large bid. No disrespect to the Patriots, but now the Wildcats have two.
“A road loss is always difficult and to lose on the last possession on a tip-in, that’s something you carry forward for a long period of time,” McKillop said.
Three who mattered
Jack Gibbs: The junior reached the 30-point mark for the eighth time this season.
Brian Sullivan: No other Wildcat scored in double figures, though the senior got all nine of his points in the second half. Sullivan went 3-for-4 after halftime, including three from beyond the arc before missing his final try.
Jalen Jenkins: The junior forward clearly likes playing against Davidson. He scored a season-high 20 points in George Mason’s 81-75 loss Jan. 9 at Belk Arena.
▪ Davidson scored its fewest points this season. Misfiring from long range didn’t help. The Wildcats entered 10th nationally with 10.1 3-pointers per game. That form didn’t show Saturday as they finished 3-for-10. Gibbs missed all four of his attempts, the first time he failed to make a 3-pointer in conference play this season.
▪ Nathan Ekwu scored Davidson’s first basket 75 seconds into the game. Fellow forward Peyton Aldridge sank a jumper with 4:37 remaining in the first half. In between those baskets, Gibbs scored 14 straight points on 6-of-11 shooting while his teammates missed 12 attempts from the field. The Wildcats shot 30.3 percent (10-for-33) before halftime.
▪ George Mason had the clear size advantage with 6-foot-11 center Shavon Thompson, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Patriots won the rebounding battle 44-36
▪ The team’s combined to miss 19 of 20 3-point attempts in the first half and both shot worse than 40 percent from the field overall.
▪ Marquise Moore, George Mason’s leading scorer, missed his third straight game with a sprained ankle. The junior had 15 points and eight rebounds in the previous meeting.
▪ The Wildcats will open a three-game homestand Tuesday against Richmond. Five of Davidson final six games will be at Belk Arena.
They said it
▪ ”Sullivan had a great look and it went in and out. Brian had been making shots in the second half. We got a great look for him. If he knocks it down it’s a whole different story.” – McKillop on Davidson final shot possession.
▪ “I thought Nathan (Ekwu) did a great job holding his ground on that last shot. All of a sudden, they came through the air. They got one tip and then a second tip and that second tip really hurt us.” – McKillop.
▪ “When we set screens for each other, we’re a pretty efficient offensive machine. That’s what happened in the second half.” – McKillop on Davidson shooting 50 percent from the field after halftime.
▪ “They came out and hit us pretty early and we got down. I was really proud as a unit the way we decided to get stops.” – Gibbs