Davidson got off to a dreadful start on Wednesday, missing its first seven shots and eventually trailing 12-2. The Wildcats later trailed by 13 in the first half and despite a run in the second half lost 70-60 to first-place Virginia Commonwealth in an Atlantic 10 Conference contest before another sellout crowd at the Siegel Center.
“Their defense was suffocating in the first four or five minutes,” said Davidson head coach Bob McKillop. “That had an impact on their shooting. (We) had to work so hard to get open. This is an electric atmosphere that exists here.”
Jack Gibbs had 18 points on 4 of 19 shots from the field and Peyton Aldridge had 15 for the sixth-place Wildcats, who fell to 17-11 and 9-8 in conference play.
“Gibbs is a good player. I was just trying to deny him the ball,” said VCU senior Korey Billbury. “I am longer than him so it is harder for him to get the ball. It was just a good collective effort on him.”
Gibbs also had eight rebounds and six assists while the Wildcats had just 11 assists on 22 baskets.
VCU, playing on senior night, improved to 22-8 (14-3) and swept the season series against Davidson as Mo Alie-Cox had 18 points, Melvin Johnson had 16 and guard JeQuan Lewis had eight assists. The Wildcats committed just eight turnovers against the VCU “havoc” but connected on 38 percent of their shots.
Davidson, which trailed by 13 in the first half and 11 at halftime, trimmed the lead to 47-41 on two free throws by Gibbs with 12 minutes, 15 seconds left. But Alie-Cox went inside for a layup and his free throw gave the Rams a 52-41 lead with 9:32 remaining.
Rams reserve Jordan Burgess made a field goal to extend the margin to 54-41 but Davidson came back and cut the lead to 56-51 on a basket and free throw by Aldridge with 4:44 left.
The Rams took the lead at 64-55 with 1:13 left on a layup by Lewis on a goaltending call. But Davidson battled back and cut the margin to 66-60 on a 3-pointer by reserve Oskar Michelsen with 35.5 seconds left.
Doug Brooks made two free throws for VCU with 24.6 seconds left to make it 68-60 and senior Johnson sealed the win with two more free throws with 15.3 seconds to go before he was taken out to the roaring approval of the home crowd.
“He is a great college basketball player,” McKillop said of Johnson.
Davidson trailed 12-2 before cutting the lead to 16-12 on a 3-pointer by Aldridge with 8:25 left in the first half. But VCU went on a 14-5 run to take a lead of 32-19 on a basket by reserve Justin Tillman (11 points) with 2:15 remaining in the first half. The Rams led 34-23 at intermission.
Three who mattered
Jack Gibbs: Gibbs entered the game averaging 24.8 points per contest – the third-best mark in the country. But the junior had just three points in the first half as he missed 6 of 7 shots. He ended the night with 18 points.
Mo Alie-Cox: The powerful VCU player had 18 points and 9 rebounds. He made 7 of 9 shots from the field and had four blocks in 28 minutes of play.
Peyton Aldridge: Aldridge was averaging 15.3 points per contest at game time. He had seven points in the first half and 15 overall.
▪ The Wildcats got off to a terrible start. Davidson missed its first seven shots from the field and trailed 8-0 before Nathan Ekwu scored the first basket for the Wildcats with 14:35 left in the first half. Ekwu later went to the locker room before he returned to the bench with 48.5 seconds left before intermission. “He was throwing up,” said Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
▪ Davidson remained in sixth place in the Atlantic 10, one place below George Washington (11-6) and one spot ahead of Rhode Island (8-8). Both of those schools were idle Wednesday, while the Rams host UMass on Thursday.
▪ The Rams won despite making 1 of 14 shots from 3-point range. Davidson was 6 of 24 from long distance and 10 of 10 from the foul line while VCU was 13 of 15 from the charity stripe.
▪ VCU’s Melvin Johnson, the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, was honored before the game on senior night. The guard then missed his first three long-range shots and was held to three points in the first half. He had 16 points but missed all four 3-pointers.
▪ VCU played in its 83rd sellout in a row and the Rams have won 71 of those games.
▪ Davidson ends regular-season play at home Saturday against George Washington while VCU plays the same day at Dayton. The Atlantic 10 tournament begins March 9 in Brooklyn but both Davidson and VCU have first-round byes and the Rams also have a bye for the second round.
▪ The Davidson women’s basketball team was in action about 2 miles away from VCU earlier on Wednesday, playing at the Richmond Coliseum in the first game of the Atlantic 10 tournament against Richmond. The No. 12 seed Wildcats had their season come to an end with a 70-51 loss to No. 13 Richmond.
They said it
▪ “We just played good defense on (Jack) Gibbs. We knew if we could contain him we could win the game.” – VCU forward Mo Alie-Cox.
▪ “I am very proud of our guys. They could have easily folded under the intense defense of VCU.” – Davidson coach Bob McKillop.
▪ “We did a tremendous job on (Jack) Gibbs. We were just tremendous against him. It was a total team effort.” – VCU coach Will Wade on facing the Davidson guard.