Things are finally starting to come together for Davidson’s men’s basketball team – and at the right time of the season.
The Wildcats closed out their three-game Atlantic 10 home stand with another win, pulling away in the second half to beat Rhode Island 65-54 on Tuesday at Belk Arena.
Peyton Aldridge scored a game-high 24 points and Jack Gibbs added 17 for Davidson (17-9, 9-6), which has now won three straight and five of its past six games.
“People are learning their roles, and playing great within them,” Gibbs said. “That, and we’re playing within the system is the big part. We’re not trying to do too much. … Once we started to do that, things have gone our way.”
However, the Wildcats had to work for Tuesday’s win against the Rams (15-13, 7-8), who battled back from an 18-4 deficit 7½ minutes into the first half to pull within 32-24 at the break.
Rhode Island cut Davidson’s lead even more in the second half, closing to within six points twice, the last at 53-46 with 7:25 remaining. But the Wildcats responded with a 12-3 run.
Aldridge’s 3-pointer with 2:13 left gave Davidson a 65-49 lead, its biggest of the game.
“We knew it was going to be a battle the whole game,” Aldridge said. “Guys have been maturing, and playing within the offense. Guys are feeling more comfortable; now, we’re really having fun playing.”
Three who mattered
Peyton Aldridge: Was 6 of 12 from the field, including a team-best 4 of 6 on 3-pointers. But he had just as big an impact at the free throw line, making 8 of 10.
Jack Gibbs: An off-night for the nation’s No. 3 scorer, making just 7 of 16 from the field and 1 of 8 on 3-pointers. But he had a pair of big layups during the Wildcats’ closing run.
Rusty Reigel: Didn’t have his biggest scoring night – three points on 1 of 5 shooting. But he flirted with a double-double, with career highs in rebounds (eight) and assists (six).
▪ Rhode Island’s 24 first-half points equaled the fewest allowed by the Wildcats this season. Davidson held Western Carolina to that amount in a 87-54 victory Dec. 12.
▪ The Wildcats’ first 20 points in the first half were scored by two players – Gibbs and Aldridge, who had 10 each. Jordan Barham broke the run with a putback layup with 9:56 left.
▪ Rams guard Jarvin Garrett, wearing a protective mask after suffering a broken jaw on Jan. 30, has been on a tear since returning to the lineup five games ago, averaging nearly 18 points per game. But he was held to just seven points by the Wildcats on 2 of 10 shooting.
▪ Garrett wasn’t the only Rhode Island scorer that got shut down by a tough Wildcats defense. Hassan Martin, the Rams’ No. 3 scorer at 12.3 per game, was held to five first-half points, and didn’t play at all the second half. Four McGlynn, their leading 3-point shooter, went 0 for 4 and finished with eight points.
▪ Jared Terrell led Rhode Island with 13 points, but the Rams shot just 34 percent from the field (18 of 53) and made only 3 of 13 3-pointers.
▪ Five members of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers – Ryan Delaire, Devin Funchess, Dean Marlowe, Shaq Thompson and Lou Young – were seated courtside at Tuesday’s game.
▪ The Wildcats are now just a half-game back of George Washington (20-7, 9-5) for fifth in the A-10 standings, with the Colonials facing Richmond on Wednesday night.
▪ Led by Nathan Ekwu’s career-best 11 rebounds, Davidson finished with a 39-34 advantage on the boards.
▪ The Wildcats hit the road for their next two A-10 games, playing at Fordham on Saturday and at Virginia Commonwealth next Wednesday.
They said it
“When they made that run, we were playing not to lose. You can’t do that; if you play not to lose, you’ll lose. We put it in our minds that we wanted to play to win. After we calmed down, I thought we did a pretty good job of that.” – Gibbs.
“We are evolving. Guys are getting better, and they’re getting better because they’re coming to practice with a sense of focus and, always, a sense of effort. They do that all the time, and they are getting better.” – Davidson coach Bob McKillop.