Davidson basketball finally lost. 15 thoughts to talk about as 15-game win streak ends
Something had to go wrong for Davidson eventually.
Entering Wednesday winners of 15 games in a row and a Top 25 ranking for the first time since 2015, the Wildcats have been forced to show their clutch gene over the past month. Including their win over then-No. 10 Alabama, they were averaging a margin of victory of 5.4 points in the past seven games against Division I competition.
The difference Wednesday night against VCU wasn’t the margin of victory but the outcome as Davidson lost 70-68 at Belk Arena.
Fifteen thoughts as Davidson’s 15-game winning streak comes to an end:
1. So close. This is a point that needs to be reiterated. Winning tight games is a sign of a great team, but you can’t win them all. Wednesday was Davidson’s first game back from a three-game road trip, winning those games by 3, 2 and 3 points. Sure enough, another tight one for the Wildcats, this time on the wrong end.
2. One run too late. VCU finished the first half on a 12-1 run, led 37-29 at halftime and by as many as 15 with 5:04 left in the game. The only significant run Davidson went on was a 14-2 stretch to cut the lead to 1 with under a minute to play.
3. Flop. The game-deciding play was with 13 seconds remaining and Davidson down 69-68. Luka Brajkovic got the ball down low and was posting up against VCU’s Vince Williams, a battle he had been winning all night. Except this time, Brajkovic erred. On his second post-up move dribbling toward the basket, he extended his left arm and Williams fell to the floor. It was an absolute flop by Williams (his feet flew out from underneath him on what was a gentle arm brush) but if you’re a forward and you’re extending your arm, that’s always going to be called a charge and Davidson coach Bob McKillop didn’t put up much of an argument.
4. A familiar problem. Davidson (16-3, 6-1 A-10) played VCU just eight days before Wednesday’s matchup, a 63-61 victory. In that game, VCU constantly pressed Davidson in the full court, taking away the fastbreak and open looks in half-court sets. The Rams’ game plan didn’t change Wednesday and they forced 15 turnovers in the process.
5. Respect for Baldwin. Whenever VCU needed someone to squash Davidson’s momentum, Ace Baldwin Jr. was their guy. The sophomore point guard from Baltimore had 15 points and almost all of them were timely.
6. That’s not like him. Davidson junior guard Michael Jones entered the game shooting 90.9 percent from the free-throw line, but was 2 of 4 against VCU.
7. Feeding Luka. The best scoring option Davidson had was 6-foot-10 forward Brajkovic, who drew double- and triple-teams in the post as VCU lacked the size to match up with him. He scored 23 points with 12 rebounds Wednesday, marking the third straight game he has scored at least 19. His potential game-winning 3-point attempt with 5 seconds to play was blocked by a running, leaping Mikeal Brown-Jones.
8. Lee is in a slump. Hyunjung Lee is Davidson’s leading scorer this season, averaging 16.2 points per game, but he’s in a funk. He had six points on 2-of-7 shooting last week against VCU and five points on 1-of-4 shooting against Fordham on Saturday. Lee scored 13 points Wednesday but was again limited to just one field goal. Davidson needs him to get his stroke going again to keep this at-large NCAA tournament push alive.
9(99). Wednesday was McKillop’s game No. 999 as Davidson’s head coach. He’ll coach his 1,000th with the Wildcats at noon Saturday against La Salle at Belk Arena.
10. National TV. Wednesday’s loss was in front of a national audience on CBS Sports Network. Davidson is getting plenty of exposure, already having three games on CBSSN, four on ESPNU and one on SEC Network. There are two more games scheduled on CBSSN and one on ESPNU, which doesn’t hurt the college’s NCAA tournament hopes if they can win those games.
11. Speaking of the NCAA tournament ... Bracketmatrix.com, a site that aggregates NCAA tournament projections, had Davidson with an average seed of 8.76 across 91 brackets as the A-10 automatic qualifier. Davidson doesn’t necessarily have to win the conference tournament to make the field of 68 in March, though.
12. Elsewhere in the A-10 ... St. Bonaventure, picked to win the Atlantic 10 in the preseason, lost to George Mason on Wednesday, moving the Bonnies into a three-way tie in the loss column for third in the conference with VCU, Dayton and St. Louis. Davidson remains in first place but is now tied in the loss column with George Mason.
13. The streak. The 15-game winning streak Davidson was on was the second-longest in college basketball behind only No. 1 Auburn (16 games).
14. Farewell, ranking. Davidson will fall from The AP Top 25 poll when the next edition comes out Monday. It will be hard for Davidson to reclaim a spot in the poll this season short of another impressive streak.
15. The road ahead. And don’t think Davidson can’t get on another hot streak. After the La Salle game Saturday, the Wildcats will play what’s possibly the toughest remaining road game on their schedule Tuesday at St. Bonaventure. If they can win that one, George Washington, St. Joseph’s, Rhode Island and Duquense are their next four opponents — all games they should win.