By HAL McCOY
Davidson’s Jack Gibbs wears a face mask, padding on his shoulder and a knee brace. He probably should play in a suit of armor.
But on Friday afternoon he also wore a halo and a set of angel wings against the University of Dayton in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament.
Gibbs put up a couple of prayers in the last minute and both were answered — two three-point daggers that lifted Davidson to a 73-67 upset victory over the feisty Flyers.
Gibbs, A SIX-FOOT SENIOR guard from Westerville, Ohio, scored 34 points, but his last six — with Dayton defensive dandy Kyle Davis face-up in his mask, sealed the deal.
It was 65-all with a minute left when Dayton’s Kendall Pollard missed a desperation three from the right side as the shot clock was expiring.
Gibbs took the ball to the deep left corner and launched a highly contested shot that swished for a 68-65 Davidson lead.
Scoochie Smith hit a floater down the line to cut the lead to one, but Gibbs then hit a step-back three from out front for a 71-67 lead with 17 second remaining and that was that.
FOLKS WHO FOLLOW THE Flyers know entering most games that their blood pressure and heart beats will be tested.
The Flyers usually fall behind, sometimes by large margins, and then come scrambling back.
And so it was Friday. They fell behind by 16 points in the first half to the No. 9 seeded Wildcats. And the top-seeded Flyers trailed 37-25 at the half.
The Flyers were loose on defense in the first half, with Gibbs tossing in 17 points, and UD was plagued by offensive fouls and an inability of Kendall Pollard to finish at the rim.
As they usually do, the Flyers dialed it up defensively the second half and moved and shared the ball at a quicker clip.
A FOUR-POINT PLAY BY Charles Cooke, a three-point shot and a free throw, drew UD within four, 39-35, early in the second half and the scuffle was on.
The Flyers scored the first basket of the game and led, 2-0, but eventually fell behind, 35-19, before coming alive.
They put on a 17-6 run to start the second half to grab their first lead since 2-0.
Scoochie Smith hit a three with 3 1/2 minutes left to tie it, 60-60. Cooke drove for a basket to give the Flyers the lead, 62-60 and followed his two with a three with 2:08 left for a 65-62 lead.
Jon Axel-Gudmundsson buried a three to tie it, 65-65. . .and it was time for the Flyers to say, “Who was that masked man?” But they knew who Gibbs was. He scored 27 in their first meeting at Davidson
AND THIS GAME WAS eerily reminiscent of that game. In the regular season game the Flyers fell way behind and scrambled back to put the game into overtime. Scoochie Smith, who had only six free throws in the first 40 minutes, hit three straight three-pointers and a two to score 11 points in overtime and the Flyers won.
Not this time. Gibbs made certain of it.
Gibbs accomplished his 34 points with 12 of 22 shooting, 5 for 11 from three, and 5 of 6 from the foul line.
UD HAD ITS USUAL balanced scoring, four players in double figures. But the top scorer, Cooke, had only 14. Xeyrius Williams and Smith each had 13 and Pollard had 12. Pollard, though, was 6 for 16 from the field and missed several at the rim. And he was 0 for 3 from the line when he did get fouled.
Now the Flyers must wait until Sunday to discover their fate. UD is 24-7, a record that should get them an NCAA bid. It would help their chances if Virginia Commonwealth, the A10’s second best team, wins the tournament and gets the automatic bid. If another team wins the tournament, it isn’t certain that three teams (the tournament champion, UD and VCU) would be chosen.
As baseball pitcher Joaquin Andujar once said, “I’ll say it in one word. Youneverknow.”