Atlantic 10-leading VCU (15-5, 8-0 in A-10) raced out to a huge lead in the first half and withstood a surge from Davidson to topple the Wildcats (12-7, 4-4 in A-10) 79-69. After trailing by as many as 22, Davidson cut the lead to 2 before a late 15-2 run from the Rams sealed the deal. The loss ends Davidson’s 15 game home win-streak and is only their second home loss in their last 32 games.
Davidson, who came into the game with the lowest turnover rate in all of D-1 basketball met their match against VCU’s vaunted Havoc defense. VCU forced 16 turnovers and applied constant pressure which sped Davidson up. It was a far cry from VCU’s visit a year ago when Davidson was able to get out ahead of their press and attack. While they still had 12 turnovers in that, they blew the Rams out 82-55.
Jack Gibbs showed the best and worst of his game tonight. Before he had even scored his first point, he had accumulated 6 turnovers, twelve minutes into the game. He had even earned a rare seat next to the coaches for a brief period. But when Gibbs got on the board he caught fire quickly. Gibbs would finish with 37 points on 7-13 shooting from deep, his 7th 30 point performance of the year. However, late turnovers, including a poorly timed errant behind-the-back pass led to back-breaking VCU points.
The game didn’t start well for Davidson. Six minutes in, Melvin Johnson already had 12 points as his Rams led 18-5, with 9 of those points coming off Davidson turnovers. VCU used an 18-2 run to build a 22 point lead as Davidson went more than 8 minutes without a field goal. The Wildcats were ice cold, beginning 2-17 from the field. But Davidson finished the half with an 11-0 run, including two three-pointers in the final five seconds of the half, to cut the lead to 38-28 at halftime.
After lacking energy for much of the first half, Davidson came alive and started making shots and fighting for loose balls. VCU steadied the early pressure and stretched their lead back up to 53-38 with under 13 to play. Davidson cut to single digits once again with a three from Sullivan at 9:49. A Jack floater followed by an Andrew McAuliffe dunk then cut it to 5 as the volume inside the sold-out Belk Arena crescendoed with just over eight minutes left. A step-back three from Gibbs got it to 57-55 with 6:49 to play. But VCU would answer with a 15-2 run and close out the game from the free throw line.
VCU was led by 23 points from JeQuan Lewis and 21 from Melvin Johnson, aided by an impressive 18 point, 11 rebound game from NFL-ready Mo Alie-Cox. His domination on the glass helped the Rams to a 45-26 advantage in rebounding.
Davidson returns to the court Wednesday night at George Washington.