Davidson (11-5, 3-2 in A-10) earned a hard-fought 86-74 win over UMass (8-9, 1-4 in A-10) Saturday afternoon in Belk Arena. Once again hampered by injuries to key players, Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge stepped up to will Davidson past the Minutemen. Gibbs finished with a career-high 43 points, his third 40-point effort of the season.
Despite the UMass defense being keyed in on stopping Gibbs, the junior guard still managed to command the game and make yet another 40-point game look easy. Though he had to work tirelessly to touch the ball, he put together another standout performance, finishing with 43 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. With two defenders on him for most of the game, he found teammates instead of forcing shots that weren’t there. When Davidson needed a bucket to flip the momentum, Gibbs found a way to get it. A three in traffic with 3:05 to play was his biggest shot, restoring the Wildcats’ lead. He was also 15-16 from the free throw line.
“It’s like the great U.S. Air Pilot Sully Sullenberger,” said Coach Bob McKillop with regards to Gibbs’s continued stellar play. “He’s about ready to crash a plane – how’d he become a hero? He went to his checklist. He stayed in the system. He did exactly what he was trained to do. And he became a hero because he did that. Jack is trained. Jack works his tail off in practice and it was evident today, because he went to his checklist and stayed in the system. He landed our plane.”
“He’s gone from being a flight attendant to a co-pilot to a pilot,” continued McKillop about Gibbs’s growth as a player. “Jack was in a different seat today and he has been in a different seat this year, where the responsibility is always on his shoulders. That was a difficult thing for him to make the transition from one seat to the other seat.”
With Brian Sullivan sitting with an ankle injury and Jordan Barham clearly hampered by his knee injury and limited to only 4 minutes, Davidson needed a big game from Peyton Aldridge. And they got it, with Aldridge posting his second double-double of the season, with 14 points and 12 rebounds. The sophomore was noticeably vocal with his teammates, making sure everyone was on the same page at each break in the action and imploring them to keep the pressure up at times. Though he struggled with his shot in the first half, he knocked down a couple big buckets in the second half. The importance of Aldridge’s versatility and ability to relieve pressure with his ball-handling cannot be overstated given Davidson’s recent injuries. Crucially, he also stayed out of foul trouble, and played every single minute of the second half.
Rusty Reigel had the best offensive game of his young career, hitting all three of his shots off the bench, including two second half threes to finish with 10 points. He also hit both of his huge free throws to give Davidson a 5 point lead with 2:47 to play. He has provided tremendous energy off the bench in recent games, but this offensive production was a huge boost. His previous career high for points was only 3, so for him to step up and confidently knock down pressure shots speaks volumes to his makeup.
“I thought our bench has really grown up,” said McKillop, referencing the 16-6 advantage in bench points, led by Reigel’s 10. “You may remember me sitting in this room a month ago and lamenting the fact that we were always at the disadvantage there – that we were not getting enough production. And I think our bench has grown.”
Two straight Donte Clark threes put UMass ahead 69-67 with 4:11 to play after Davidson had led nearly the entire second half to that point. But Andrew McAuliffe answered immediately after with a nifty post move to ignite a 10-0 run for the Wildcats, with Davidson regaining the lead on Gibbs’s triple and stretching the lead back to 8 with 1:43 to play.
The game was a cagey foul fest for the first half but came to life in the second. UMass applied full court pressure nearly the entire game and aggressively fought through the screens as Davidson ran their offense. It wasn’t until after the intermission that both teams were able to attack in transition. From that point, these looked much more like the high-powered offenses we were expecting to see.
The Minutemen were unafraid to shoot today. Trey Davis himself took 23 shots, including 15 from deep and finished with 30 points. Donte Clark, who had been averaging 20 points in conference play thus far, had missed his first 6 from deep before knocking down two in a row.
UMass began the game ice cold from the field. They missed their first 11 triples but shot out of their struggles. Davidson used a 12-2 run to build an eleven point lead, but the Minutemen countered with a 10-0 run and gained the lead shortly before the half. Davis heated up in the final minutes of the half with three straight threes, which helped send the Minutemen to the locker room with a 1-point lead despite Gibbs’s 18 first half points.
Davidson will be on the road their next two games, at Saint Louis on Wednesday night and at Richmond Saturday afternoon on NBCSN. They next return to Belk Arena in a Friday night showdown with conference power VCU on the 29th.