Winning another Atlantic 10 regular-season title is a little out of reach for Davidson’s men’s basketball team.
But after the Wildcats’ 99-93 victory over Saint Joseph’s on Saturday at Belk Arena, they’re certainly making it harder for the contenders.
Jack Gibbs, back after missing Tuesday’s win over Richmond with a stomach bug, scored a game-high 35 points for Davidson (16-9, 8-6), which had three other players finish in double figures.
Nathan Ekwu added 18 points, including a pair of clinching free throws with 18.6 seconds left; Peyton Aldridge had 15 points and Oskar Michelsen 10 for the Wildcats, who have now won two straight and four of their past five games.
“We did a good job of fighting to the end,” Gibbs said. “We didn’t let them knock us out in the first couple minutes … and towards the end of the game, we got some stops and made some big shots.
“We’re not really thinking about anybody else, we’re just thinking about what we can do and what we want to achieve for the rest of the season. Of course, we want to keep winning.”
The decisive run came with seven minutes remaining, with the Hawks (22-5, 11-3) taking a 79-75 lead on Isaiah Miles’ three-point play.
But Ekwu put in a layup, followed by a layup from Aldridge that tied the game at 79 with 6:27 left. Aldridge then came up with a three-point play 24 seconds later that put Davidson in the lead to stay.
The Wildcats went on to outscore Saint Joseph’s 24-12 over the final stretch, with Michelsen, Ekwu, Gibbs and Brian Sullivan all hitting free throws in the final 31 seconds.
Three who mattered
Jack Gibbs: Shot 11 of 18 from the field (including 5 of 7 on 3-pointers) and 8 of 9 from the free throw line for his ninth 30-point game this season. Also had five assists.
Nathan Ekwu: Career-high scoring game came from 4 of 5 shooting from the field, and a career-best 10 of 14 free throws. Also had eight rebounds.
Isaiah Miles: Scored a team-high 32 points for the Hawks, making 12 of 18 from the field (including 3 of 7 3-pointers) and 5 of 6 free throws.
▪ Saint Joseph’s hit its first six 3-pointers in the first half, then went 3 of 17 for the rest of the game.
▪ Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field – the Hawks 56.1 percent (37 of 66), the Wildcats 56.6 percent (30 of 53) – but Davidson made 10 of 21 3-pointers to Saint Joseph’s 9 of 23.
▪ While making fewer field goals, Davidson’s real advantage came at the free throw line. The Wildcats went 29 of 38, while Saint Joseph’s was 10 of 16.
▪ Even though the Hawks had a size advantage inside, it was Davidson that won the rebounding battle, 33-26. That was decisively so in the second half, with the Wildcats holding a 22-13 edge, including 8-3 on the offensive boards.
▪ Saint Joseph’s had three other players finish in double figures. DeAndre’ Bembry had 19 points, Shavar Newkirk 13 and Aaron Brown 12.
▪ Two of Saint Joseph’s players have area connections – Bembry was born in Charlotte, and played at Rocky River High before transferring to The Patrick School in New Jersey; reserve forward James Demery, a Williamston native, helped Northside Christian win the NCISAA 2A state title in 2014.
▪ The Hawks’ loss at Belk Arena was their first in a road game this season. They had been the only team in the nation to have gone undefeated on the road; now, they’re 9-1.
▪ Davidson’s win also benefitted Virginia Commonwealth, which led the A-10 standings entering Saturday’s games. With the Hawks and No. 15 Dayton both losing (the Flyers to St. Bonaventure 79-72), the Rams now hold a two-game lead atop the standings.
▪ The Wildcats wrap up their three-game Atlantic 10 home stand on Tuesday, hosting Rhode Island. Game time is 6 p.m. at Belk Arena.
They said it
▪ “That word ‘spoiler’ never enters into my vocabulary. Our whole objective is to get better, that’s all we care about. We don’t think about being spoilers; if we do, then we’ve set limitations for ourselves. We refuse to set limitations for ourselves.” – Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
▪ “I wasn’t really thinking about going to the free throw line, I just went up there and shot the ball. It’s like the routine that I’ve done over and over again. Coach (McKillop) does a great job of making us practice free throws. If you take the transition from my first year to now, there’s been a lot of changes in my free throw routing. I’m glad it paid off tonight.” – Ekwu.