With NBA MVP Stephen Curry sitting just behind the Davidson bench, Jack Gibbs put on a show for the ages in a 109-74 Wildcat romp over cross-county rivals UNC-Charlotte. It is Davidson’s third straight victory in the Battle for the Hornets’ Nest and gives Bob McKillop his first ever 5-0 start at Davidson. The win also marks the first 5-0 start at the school since the legendary Lefty Driesell took the 1968-69 squad to that mark in his final year.
Gibbs, who scored a career high 41 on 14-17 shooting (6-7 from three) in only 29 minutes, put on a shooting clinic in the first half. He hit all nine of his shots, including three from deep. After halftime, he picked up right where he left off, making his next five shots before a corner three finally bounced off the rim. He hit from everywhere on the floor, including a couple well behind the arc. Powerfully blowing by helpless defenders, he made the young Charlotte backcourt look silly with an array of flicks and banks. Curry was left shaking his head in the crowd.
“Sometimes, a shooter gets in a zone,” Coach McKillop said of Gibbs’s performance after the game. “With Baryshnikov in the stands, we had a little bit of inspiration. The players knew he was here and Steph’s been so good to our guys. That kind of inspiration can really be magical. I thought Jack and Brian [Sullivan] had some magic tonight with their shooting.”
Gibbs’s 41 were the most points in a game for a Davidson player since Curry himself scored 43 vs. Appalachian State in March of 2009. Despite hitting his first 14 shots, it took extra effort for Gibbs to get the 40th point. But after missing a couple tightly contested shots, he broke the barrier at the charity stripe. Just like when Curry put up 44 with LeBron James watching, Gibbs played his best with the eyes of the reigning NBA MVP upon him tonight.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of executing on offense,” Gibbs said postgame with a huge grin on his face, unaware that he had made his first 14 shots. “Luckily I got some open shots and hit a few of them. And then a few more.”
UNCC looked to be gaining some momentum right after half when Ridell Camidge knocked down his third three in a row with 19:23 to play, but Davidson followed with a lightning quick 9-0 run to blow open the game once and for all. A Gibbs-to-Barham alley-oop in the middle of the run all but silenced the 49ers crowd for good. When Gibbs followed a 49ers free throw with his own personal 9-0 run, the Wildcats were suddenly up 79-47 with 15:53 to play. The 49ers would not make it close again.
Davidson had come out on fire in the first half, hitting their first five shots, forcing Mark Price into an early timeout down 12-2. Before Charlotte could breathe, Davidson had a 35-17 lead. Starting 13-15 overall and 7-9 from three, the Wildcats simply could not miss in the opening ten minutes. After a nifty Gibbs move made it 55-29, UNCC went on an 11-0 run to cut into the lead. But a Gibbs bank shot at the buzzer sent the ‘Cats to the locker room up 59-43. For the half, Davidson shot 68% overall.
Brian Sullivan started just as hot as Gibbs, hitting his first four threes on his way to a 23-point night, his second straight 20-point game. The national leader in minutes per game finally got a well-earned ten minutes rest in the second half with the Wildcats way up. Sullivan was also a key part of the gang rebounding Davidson needed to counter the 49ers’ size advantage.
“We need to be team of defenders,” McKillop said of what he thought was the best team defensive performance of the young season. “We don’t have any sheriffs on the team. We have no shot blockers on the team that are going to lock the rim up. We have to be a group of five guys cohesively joined at the hip, making sure we protect the rim.”
Peyton Aldridge, whose play has been a key factor in Davidson’s hot start, began the game with a contested three and consistently chipped in with big shots and big rebounds. He finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Jordan Barham rounded out the group of Wildcats in double-figures with 14 points.
Though Charlotte was able to get some buckets due to their superior offensive rebounding, there wasn’t much else to critique in the Wildcats’ performance, which was the most lopsided victory over UNCC in McKillop’s tenure. The veterans played well, Nathan Ekwu and Rusty Reigel had impressive performances off the bench and of course there was Gibbs. Then with the ugliest trophy known to mankind in hand, they walked over to celebrate with Curry and his family.
Coach McKillop made sure to say a public thank you to Mark Price for allowing this game to be moved up so that Curry could attend in advance of the Golden State Warriors-Charlotte Hornets game tomorrow night.
Next up for Davidson is a trip to Chapel Hill where the Wildcats will take on Roy Williams’s UNC Tar Heels on Sunday evening looking to extend their winning streak. UNC, who were ranked #1 in the polls as recently as two weeks ago, will provide a tough test by any definition.