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Bears drop second straight in 78-57 loss to Davidson

Head coach Bob Hoffman said Davidson's Jack Gibbs is

Head coach Bob Hoffman said Davidson's Jack Gibbs is "one of the best point guards in America."

Hayes Rule, Social Media Editor

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Jack Gibbs took a few tricks out of Stephen Curry’s book.

The junior guard from Davidson knocked down eight 3-pointers Tuesday en route to a season-high 33 points in the Wildcats’ 78-57 win over Mercer. Davidson as a team connected on 14 3-pointers, five more than the team’s average on the year.

It didn’t take Gibbs — or Davidson — long to get into rhythm.

The Wildcats nailed five 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the game to take an early 21-9 lead. The Bears eventually stopped the bleeding, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 26-18 with eight minutes remaining in the first half.

But they would never get any closer than eight points. Gibbs gave Davidson a 41-27 lead at halftime after nailing a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer; the Wildcats honed that momentum early in the second half, scoring the first eight points to take a 22-point lead.

Davidson’s lead peaked at 66-39 — a point in which Gibbs individually had only 10 less points than Mercer’s entire team — before the Bears’ bench battled and cut the deficit to 21 by the final buzzer.

 

STARS OF THE GAME:

Gibbs: The Davidson guard led all scorers with 33 points on 11-of-20 shooting. In four games played this year, Gibbs has averaged 21.0 points for the Wildcats.

Peyton Aldridge: His performance is overshadowed by Gibbs’, but Aldridge chipped in 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting; he also added five rebounds and three assists for Davidson.

J.J. N’Ganga: Off the bench, the redshirt senior grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds and tied a career-high with eight points in 20 minutes played.

Ryan Johnson: The redshirt sophomore was Mercer’s only scorer in double digits (10) and added in five rebounds. His 10 points tied a season high.

 

STATS THAT POP:

Did Steph go back to college?: Davidson utilized the 3-point shot early and often, scoring 15 of its first 21 points and 42 of its 78 by the 3-pointer. Former Davidson star and now-NBA champion Stephen Curry holds the record for most 3-pointers made in an NBA season.

Starters struggling: Mercer’s bench outscored the starting five. Led by N’Ganga and Johnson, the bench scored 30 points while the starters scored 27. Starters Desmond Ringer and Stephon Jelks played 12 and 16 minutes, respectively.

Bears offense goes into hibernation: Mercer’s 57 points was a season low. Ria’n Holland, the team’s leading scorer, finished with a season-low nine points while Jordan Strawberry tied his season low with four.

 

Their guard is like one of the best point guards in America.”

— Head coach Bob Hoffman

 

WHAT MATTERED:

Purrty on offense: The Wildcats punched Mercer in the mouth early; their 21 points in the first five minutes were seven more points than Radford scored in the entire first half against Mercer. Davidson shot more than 45 percent from the field and nearly 39 percent from 3-point.

Coughing it up: The Bears finished the game with 18 turnovers, three less than the amount of field goals (21) the team scored. With five minutes remaining in the game, Davidson held a huge advantage in the turnover department — 17 for Mercer, three for the Wildcats — before four late turnovers for Davidson.

 

THREE TAKEAWAYS:

(1) A taste of France

Forward J.J. N’Ganga had, by far, his best game of the season against Davidson. For the first time this season, N’Ganga played more minutes than fellow big man Andrew Fishler. N’Ganga’s performance was a weapon the Bears have not shown yet this year; if he can continue similar production — or, at least, close to it — then he would be an added wrinkle to the Bears’ improved height and depth in the frontcourt. The major question will be, “Can his knee hold up?” He sat out last year at New Mexico due to injury.

(2) Starters will rebound

I feel extremely confident in saying the bench will not outscore the starting five again this season. Call Tuesday an anomaly. Ringer and Jelks will return to their normal minutes while Holland will not continue to shoot 2-of-8 from the floor.

(3) How does Mercer respond?

The Bears travel up to George Mason Saturday to take on another A-10 opponent. A difficult venue, George Mason will test Mercer — especially mentally. After suffering nearly its worst loss of the season — at home, too — Mercer will have a chance to rebound with a win against a quality opponent in a tough environment. The outing against the Patriots could be very telling of the makeup of this year’s team.

 

BEAR BITES:

N’Ganga on his performance: “Well, I had a day off. So it was help. I’ve been a little banged up. My health is the most influential factor of how I play.”

N’Ganga on what to learn from the loss: “From the get go, we need to get after people. We can’t just let people punch us in the face and try to wake up.”

Head coach Bob Hoffman on team’s 18 turnovers: “You’re not going to win, even playing maybe a lesser team than those guys, but for sure against a well-oiled machine like they are.”

Hoffman on lack of offense: “I think we just missed a few. To me, to beat that team, you had to be a second-attack team. We talked about it for three days, and we were settling for the first shot instead of driving them again and making a pass… If you’re going to beat them, you have to make them guard for a couple possessions and go at them twice.”

Hoffman on inability to come back from slow start: “It’s a higher-level team probably, a little bit. Their guard is like one of the best point guards in America. He showed it [Tuesday].”

Hoffman on moving on: “Well, you go to sleep, get some food and guys take [Wednesday] off and kind of re-group. We play a George Mason team we beat [at Hawkins Arena] last year. They’re really good. They’ll be well coached. It’ll be a hard game. We don’t really have any easy games left. Like we’ve said all along from the beginning, this was going to be the hardest schedule we’ve ever had since I’ve been here.”

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Bears drop second straight in 78-57 loss to Davidson