By Ken Cross
The energy and the consistent scoring ability of Davidson guard Jack Gibbs is starting to get national notoriety. Once again, Wednesday afternoon, he eclipsed the 40-point mark with 41 points as Davidson needed ever ounce of energy, every drop of sweat, and every point from it’s 6-0, 195-pound prodigy, in a thrilling 81-77 victory over a deep, physical, and athletic Morehead State squad.
Morehead State was the second consecutive physical threat to the Davidson Wildcats as they had problems adjusting to flow of the game, much like against the Panthers in the 94-69 loss at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. Davidson was out-rebounded 52-31 by a much more physical Panthers team that shot 56.4 percent on the afternoon.
“They shot the ball well and when they shoot the ball that well, we had to make plays and didn’t and thats what gave them runs,” said Gibbs, “They have A-10 athleticism and talent and style of play. Toughness and focus were the two main intangibles in the game.”
The Eagles were able to throw 6-6, 230-pound DeJuan Marrero, and 6-8, 230-pound Anthony Elechi at the Wildcats in the middle and their physical presence plus the ball pressure from the guards seemed to skew Davidson’s rhythm for most of the first half.
Then, Gibbs threw it into another gear. The nation’s second leading scorer had kept the Wildcats in the game with their first six points as Morehead State scored on six of it’s first seven possession to take a 15-6 lead with 15:11 left in the first half.
Gibbs stayed the course though as he started to percolate off the dribble. As physical as the Eagles’ guards were playing on the perimeter, Gibbs beat them with his first step and was able to break down the defense and keep DC in the game. He had 16 of the Wildcats’ 34 in the first half and literally kept them within striking distance of what was a more physical and deeper Morehead State team.
“The way we fought back against Morehead State, who is an A-10 type of team,” commented Davidson coach Bob McKillop, “We attacked and for us to play as well as we did after being down 15-4 is a good statement at this point, coming off a difficult loss to Pittsburgh and a difficult loss to Pitt and Christmas hanging over our head. Our guys got their focus at the 15:00 mark and did a terrific job of making plays when they had to.”
Gibbs hit a higher gear, coming out of halftime, much like in his 40-point outing at UNCC earlier this season. In the first 5:19 of the first half, he canned all three of his triples and hit three free throws when he was fouled on a three-point attempt. Once again, though the Eagles’ movement on offense and the play of Brent Arrington kept Morehead State in the lead at 53-48, midway through the second half.
“Jack has the capacity for every emotion in the books,” said McKillop, as Gibbs handled the ball for much of the afternoon on the point, but had 10 turnovers, “He is an incredibly talented player and he wants to win so badly. Sometimes he wants to win too badly, so he plays too fast. He got us back in the game with big shots and big plays he made and I am very thrilled.”
McKillop’s team feed off Gibbs’ energy. He is an incessant spark plug and even goes at a faster pace and takes his game to a higher level if he sees his Wildcats stagnating or in trouble. The key for McKillop is to see Gibbs keep focused and as under control as he can be. This makes Davidson more efficient on offense.
“It’s a matter of him being focus and the danger of him going to fast in that it results in a quick score for the opponent,” explained McKillop, “It’s like a pick-six in football, if a quarterback makes mistakes, it can be a costly mistake, leading to six points. He understands that. He’s watched a lot of film about it and he’s heard me talk about it. This team knows it; he knows it.”
Over the first 30 minutes, Gibbs scored 31 points and did all he could defensively to keep the Wildcats around. After he hit Peyton Aldridge on a cut to the basket for a 65-63 lead, Davidson’s first since 16-15, it was evident that he needed a complementary weapon to appear.
Welcome, Jordan Barham, who scored eight of his 17 points and had an amazing rebound where he willed himself to go higher than anyone on the floor after a desperation shot by Miguel Dicent. Barham was six-of-eight from the floor on the day and possibly had his most meaningful and savvy score when he slipped inside a Morehead State defender on an inbounds pass to score on a layup and give the Wildcats a 69-66 with just over five minutes remaining.
“He made a basket on the previous possession and then he did something that got me excited,” explained McKillop, “On an out of bounds play, he read the situation and bodied the guy and scored on a pass from Jack and then there was another situation where he read the defense, went thru the lane, and got a layup. We had him in there to rebound because he jumps and he had 8 rebounds and 17 points. That’s pretty good in 23 minutes.”
Gibbs had nailed a three some 20 seconds before Brahmas’s key board to cap his second 40-point game of the season and put Davidson ahead at 80-74.
“We wanted to come back after we didn’t play great against Pitt,” said Gibbs, “We started great against them and fell off. We came back the next game after the Carolina game and fought. That’s what we need is that toughness all game every game, no matter who we are playing.”