College Basketball

Davidson wraps up A-10 season by beating George Washington

Davidson’s Jack Gibbs (12) celebrates Saturday’s 87-80 upset win over George Washington at the John M. Belk Arena. Gibbs finished with a game-high 31 points.
Davidson’s Jack Gibbs (12) celebrates Saturday’s 87-80 upset win over George Washington at the John M. Belk Arena. Gibbs finished with a game-high 31 points. TIM COWIE - DavidsonPhotos.com

Davidson’s men’s basketball team won’t be heading into conference tournament play as a No. 1 seed this year.

That’s fine with the Wildcats, who wrapped up their Atlantic 10 regular season with an 87-80 victory over George Washington on Saturday at Belk Arena.

Jack Gibbs scored a game-high 31 points, Brian Sullivan added 19 points in his final home game and Peyton Aldridge had 18 for Davidson (18-11 10-8).

Thanks to Fordham – a 64-61 winner over Rhode Island earlier Saturday – the Wildcats also secured the No. 6 seed for next week’s A-10 tournament, which begins Wednesday in Brooklyn, N.Y.

While Davidson’s run of No. 1 seeds in conference tournament play ended at four straight – three in the Southern Conference, and last year’s A-10 tournament – that’s no concern to the Wildcats.

“Every year I’ve been here, we went into the tournament as the (No.) 1 seed with all the pressure,” Sullivan said. “That’s a tough place to be. But now we’re going in there with nothing to lose. We’re very excited to get to Brooklyn.”

Three who mattered

Jack Gibbs: Didn’t have one of his better shooting games (11 of 23 from the field, 1 of 6 on 3-pointers), but was clutch at the free throw line (8 of 10).

Brian Sullivan: Wrapped up his Davidson career with one of his best games, going 7 of 11 from the field and making 3 of 6 3-pointers.

Peyton Aldridge: Had his hands full battling inside against the Colonials’ big men, but still made 7 of 12 from the field and 2 of 3 3-pointers.

Observations

▪ Gibbs had 10 of his 12 first-half points over the final 6 1/2 minutes, including a highlight-reel, back-to-the-basket layup while getting fouled with 5:14 left.

▪ Yuta Watanabe and Patricio Garino had 22 points each for George Washington (22-9, 11-7), with Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh adding 16 and Kevin Larsen 10 points and 12 rebounds.

▪ After a quiet first half rebounding, the Colonials dominated the boards over the final 20 minutes, outrebounding the Wildcats 28-13. George Washington finished with a 41-28 advantage, but only a 13-11 edge in second-chance points.

▪ The Colonials’ free throw shooting let them down at a crucial stage in the second half. Watanabe missed a free throw that would have tied the game at 67 with 9:14 left, and GW missed the front end of three straight 1-and-1 opportunities a few minutes later.

Worth mentioning

▪ The Wildcats’ four senior players – Jordan Barham, Jake Belford, Brian Sullivan and Matt Williams – were honored before the start of Saturday’s game.

▪ Belford, who ended his college career earlier this season due to injuries, suited up in his Wildcats uniform for the Senior Day festivities. He then made his final game appearance with 10 seconds remaining.

▪ Williams, a 6-foot-1 walk-on guard with Davidson the past two seasons, made his first career start Saturday. He spent less than a minute on the court before Gibbs replaced him.

▪ Davidson now has a few days to prepare for the Atlantic 10 tournament. The Wildcats don’t play until 9 p.m. Thursday, against either the still-to-be-determined No. 11 or No. 14 seed (who play each other Wednesday).

They said it

“We’re excited to go to Brooklyn. Last year was our first year (in the A-10 Tournament), so we’re excited to get back. Hopefully it’s a lot better outcome. … Any team can beat any team on any day. You can’t look ahead, or you’ll lose.” – Gibbs.

“There were a lot of emotions. I felt bad, I couldn’t look my mom in the eye before the game, because I was trying to hold it together.” – Sullivan.

“This was just a hard-fought win against a very good team. We’re getting better – our decision making was very, very good; our fight was good, our inside-outside game was good. They’re just a very tough team to stop. … But to get 24 wins in two years in the Atlantic 10 is pretty good.” – Davidson coach Bob McKillop.

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