College Basketball

Davidson falls under pressure from VCU in A-10 semis

Virginia Commonwealth guard Melvin Johnson (32) and Davidson forward Andrew McAuliffe (40) collide during the first half of Saturday’s Atlantic 10 men’s tournament in New York.
Virginia Commonwealth guard Melvin Johnson (32) and Davidson forward Andrew McAuliffe (40) collide during the first half of Saturday’s Atlantic 10 men’s tournament in New York. AP

The tone was established early.

Davidson turned the ball over on its first two possessions Saturday, succumbing to Virginia Commonwealth University’s relentless pressure. It was just the start of a long afternoon for the Wildcats.

“They came and kind of had the first punch, sent us back and they were the attackers,” Brian Sullivan said. “I thought we did a good job staying in the game and fighting back, and I think we cut it close with a couple of minutes left in the first half, and we were right there. And they just kept coming. It just seems like they were too much.”

Second-seeded VCU was indeed too deep, too athletic and too fast for sixth-seeded Wildcats. Davidson just couldn’t match up with the Rams, falling 76-54 in their Atlantic 10 Basketball Championship semifinal at the Barclays Center.

VCU (24-9) will meet fourth-seeded Saint Joseph’s (26-7) Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. championship game.

With its dreams of making the NCAA Tournament dashed, Davidson (20-12) can only hope it receives a bid to the NIT.

Three who mattered

Brian Sullivan: He was really the only one able to muster anything of significance offensively for Davidson. He made 6 of 13 shots and finished with 15 points.

Korey Billbury: His smooth stroke was on full display, going 3 of 5 from three-point range and 7 of 15 from the floor overall. He had 17 points and seven rebounds to lead the Rams.

Mo Alie-Cox: The big man pounded his way to 13 points on 4 of 6 shooting and had a nifty alley-oop that ignited a thunderous roar from the VCU faithful in attendance.

Observations

▪ Playing three games in three nights finally caught up to the Wildcats and they struggled to consistently keep up with VCU. Though the Wildcats closed within three with 5:01 left in the first half, that’s as close as they got and they never really threatened VCU, trailing by as many as 30 points in the second half.

▪ VCU refused to let Jack Gibbs get going. Davidson’s leading scorer was bottled up and never had much breathing room, making 2 of 13 attempts and finishing with four points, four turnovers and three steals in 27 minutes.

Worth mentioning

▪ In what could be his final college game, Brian Sullivan preserved his impressive three-point streak. His shot from long distance with 5:01 remaining in the first half marked the 49th straight game he’s hit one, which is the second-longest streak in the country behind the 59 of Troy’s Wesley Person Jr.

▪ VCU has played in the A-10 championship game in each of the four seasons it’s been in the league since joining the conference in 2012.

They said it

▪ “We just wanted to contain him. … He’s a great player, great shooter. So it’s like cutting the head off a snake. You take him out, it puts us in a good spot.” – VCU’s JeQuan Lewis on the game plan for Jack Gibbs.

▪ “I think you can catch up with the way we play because we can shoot the three. But we weren’t making the three. And you live and die by the three. … We will always try to live by it.” – Bob McKillop

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