Davidson (17-9, 9-6 in A-10) completed a successful homestand with its third straight victory, besting Rhode Island 65-54 in a relatively comfortable game. The win keeps Davidson alive in their quest to earn the fourth seed and a double bye at the Atlantic 10 Tournament. In holding the Rams to 34% shooting, it was one of the best defensive performances of the year from Davidson.
Peyton Aldridge knocked down a triple on the first possession on way to 14 first half points and 24 for the night on 4-6 shooting from deep. The big man was instrumental in helping contain Rhode Island’s bigs with double-teams and weak-side blocks. His box-outs freed the guards to grab rebounds, with Davidson outrebounding the Rams 39-34 on the night.
Jack Gibbs had his floater game going early, and was especially eager to attack the rim in transition in the opening minutes. But after scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes, Gibbs was hounded by Jared Terrell and limited to deep three-point attempts at the end of the shot clock. After making his first three, Gibbs would miss his last 7. Yet still, Gibbs finished with 17 points and only 1 turnover.
Behind them, Brian Sullivan extended his streak of games with a made three to 43 games, the second longest streak in the nation with a trio of threes on way to 9 points. Rusty Reigel also continued his trend of do-it-all games with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Nathan Ekwu added 11 rebounds and 4 blocks in yet another impressive defensive outing. All five Wildcat starters played 34 minutes or more tonight.
URI cut Davidson’s lead to 5 at the start of the second half but could never put together a run to cut into the Wildcat lead further. Despite many students in attendance for Black Out Belk, the arena was largely subdued due to the slow pace of the game. But Davidson was able to prevent the Rams from picking up any momentum and built their lead all the way back up to 16 with 3:05 to play after a 9-0 run sealed the deal.
Davidson went up 18-4 at the start of the game with a 15-0 run over a six minute span, with Aldridge and Gibbs combining to score every one of those points. From there, the pace of the game dramatically slowed. Davidson held the Rams to 33.3% shooting for the half and went into the locker room leading 32-24.
The offensive focal point for Rhode Island in the early going was Hassan Martin. A year ago against Davidson, Martin had a monster 17 point, 16 rebound, 5 block game. After two buckets on early post-ups from Martin, Davidson sent a double-team at him whenever he caught the ball in the post and from there held him without another basket. However, Martin did sit the entire second half with knee tendinitis aggravated during the first half.
Without Martin on the floor, the Rams, many people’s pick for preseason favorite, were starved for offensive production. Not one player had scored double digit points until there were under three minutes to play in the game. Hammered by the season-ending injury to star E.C. Matthews in the opening game of the season, Rhode Island has struggled to stay afloat. With this loss, they fell below .500 in the conference.
Five players from the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers were in attendance, sitting courtside and cheering on the Wildcats. Devin Funchess, Shaq Thompson, Ryan Delaire, Dean Marlowe and Lou Young earned loud applause when acknowledged by the fans midway through the first half.
Davidson has three conference games to play before the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They travel to Fordham this weekend and will head to VCU before returning home March 5 for Senior Night against George Washington.