Opening up the 2015-2016 with a flurry, scoring 55 in the first half, Davidson had to overcame 1-14 shooting from deep in the second half to hold on for a 90-85 victory over University of Central Florida.
A year after shooting 15-17 from the field on his way to a career-high 37 against UCF, Jack Gibbs showcased his ability to get to the rim tonight, finishing with 35 despite 2-9 shooting from deep. 21 of those came in the second half when he took over the game. His ability to change speeds allowed him to blow by defenders in transition in the first half, but when things slowed down in the second, Gibbs was particularly impressive in the way he created space for himself in a crowded lane.
After an up-and down first half, the second half was a defensive struggle. UCF used a 14-2 run at the start of the second half to take a 59-58 lead, aided by two dunks from 7’6″ freshman Tacko Fall. In that seven minute stretch, the Wildcats missed ten of their eleven shots and committed two turnovers. After starting the half 2-17 from the field as a team, Davidson took a 69-63 lead on 7-0 run courtesy of Gibbs midway through the half. However, UCF would answer and had trailed 78-77 with 3:53 to play. A nifty move from Gibbs stretched the lead to 86-81 with 46.3 remaining. From there, Davidson would hold on.
When Davidson went cold from deep, Jordan Barham’s play on the block was key to the Wildcats getting buckets. Despite the disadvantage in size, Barham was able to make space with his spin-move onto the left hand and showed off his touch with some tidy finishing. His change-of-pace option alongside Gibbs helped keep the Wildcats going despite the struggles from deep. Gibbs and Barham combined for 28 of the Wildcats’ 35 points in the second half.
Jake Belford marked his return from a season-ending knee injury a year ago with his first career double-double. Showcasing his stroke from deep early, he posted a line of 10 points and 12 rebounds. His presence on defense made a huge impact. Fall, cleared to play by the NCAA early Friday morning, was the story coming in. But Belford helped slow the sideshow before it got started, forcing him to turn the ball over twice in the opening three minutes. Fall improved in the second half, finishing with 4 points and 2 blocks in 14 minutes.
In the first half, Brian Sullivan was there to knock down a couple momentum-building threes, finishing with 15 points in 38 tough minutes. Kept tightly guarded all game, he was able to find space off of offensive rebounds and took his opportunities when they came. Though he was held to a lone basket in the second half and finished only 3-9 from deep, it was his hustle plays late and strong defense that deserve praise.
After slowing the game down for the first portion of the first half, UCF got back into the game when they pushed the pace after Davidson misses. Adonys Henriquez (18 points) and Matt Williams (12 points) were quick to fire from deep and got the Knights within one at 35-34 with 5:33 to play in the first half. However, Davidson stretched the lead back out to 1o by the break, taking a 55-45 lead to the locker room.
Also notable this year is the emergence of Andrew McAuliffe’s three-point shot. The big junior, who had been 0-2 from deep in his first two seasons, confidently stepped up to take and make a three early in the first half.
Davidson returns to the court next Saturday at home to former Southern Conference opponent College of Charleston.