RICHMOND, Va. – Davidson got a tough introduction to what Atlantic 10 road games are like, thanks to Virginia Commonwealth.
The Wildcats suffered their first-ever loss in their new conference, falling to the 20th-ranked Rams 71-65 on Wednesday at VCU’s Siegel Center.
Davidson (10-3, 1-1) was held to 20 points under its season scoring average by the Rams (12-3, 2-0) and their “Havoc” defense, forcing the Wildcats into 15 turnovers – 13 coming off steals.
“There’s clearly no mystery why Virginia Commonwealth is the success they are,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “It was quite an introduction to us to what a road game means in the A-10. It’s a heavyweight bout every night.”
Brian Sullivan scored 19 points and Tyler Kalinoski added 16 for the Wildcats, who shot just 37.3 percent (22 of 59) from the field and made 10 of 28 3-pointers.
“We don’t feel very happy with how we executed, offensively and defensively,” said Sullivan, who made five of Davidson’s 3-pointers.
“They did a pretty good job of mixing it up defensively … but we didn’t do a good job of controlling our own movements and our own tempo.”
But Jack Gibbs, the Wildcats’ leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, finished with just 11 points on 1 of 10 shooting (1 of 7 on 3-pointers) and making 8 of 8 from the line.
“They have a three-headed monster with those three guards,” said VCU guard Briante Weber. “We pretty much keyed on (Gibbs), because he’s the head of the snake. But they still wound up having pretty good games.”
Just not good enough to beat Virginia Commonwealth, which led by as many as 13 points. VCU won its seventh straight – the Rams’ longest streak since the 2012-2013 season.
Still, Davidson had its moments.
The Wildcats tied the score four times in the first half, the last at 23-23 on Sullivan’s 3-pointer with 7 minutes, 32 seconds remaining. Sullivan then hit a jumper that pulled Davidson within 26-25 with 4:56 left before the Rams pulled out to a 38-34 halftime lead.
VCU opened the second half with a 19-10 run, taking its biggest lead at 57-44 on two free throws by Treveon Graham with 8:15 remaining. But Davidson responded with a 10-2 run, capped by Gibbs’ 3-pointer to pull the Wildcats within 59-54 with 5:26 left.
However, the Rams went on their own run, outscoring Davidson 10-3 over the next 3 1/2 minutes. Melvin Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 2:09 left to put VCU up 69-57, and the Wildcats would pull no closer than six points the rest of the way.
“We started playing free,” Sullivan said. “We had nothing to lose at that point. That freedom helped in the way we played, because we got some good looks.
“But it was too little, too late. We didn’t see anything that we felt unprepared for. We just didn’t quite execute the way we wanted to.”