Sophomore guard Jack Davidson poured in a career-high 43 points to lead Wabash College to an 85-74 win at Denison in a Friday night North Coast Athletic Conference men's basketball game.
Davidson shot 12-of-19 from the field overall and hit 6-of-8 attempts from three-point range, including a pair of long bombs in the first half from 25 feet. He hit all 13 of his free throws to record his 43 points to tie for the sixth-most points scored by a Wabash player in a single game. He matched the 43-point efforts of Wabash Athletics Hall of Famers Tom Bennett and Pete Metzelaars.
Davidson scored 26 points in the opening period to stake the Little Giants to an early lead.
"Jack got us off to a great start," Wabash head coach Kyle Brumett said. "This was a little bit of a bounce-back game for him. I don't think Jack played as well as he would have liked on Wednesday against DePauw. We really needed that scoring out of him tonight. I felt as the game began some of our guys probably expended more mental energy on Wednesday night and were a little tired with the short turn around with a game on Friday. Jack came out and really carried us and pushed us ahead. We also got some good efforts from some other people, but Jack really set the tone and gave us a chance to get a really important road win to start the second half of the conference schedule against a really well-coached team."
The Little Giants (16-1, 10-0 NCAC) needed every one of Davidson's points to earn the win. The Little Giants claimed a nine-point lead seven minutes into the game. Matt Doyle scored two of his team-high 24 points for Denison (5-11, 2-8 NCAC) to spark a rally for the Big Red. The hosts cut the Wabash lead to one point before a three-pointer and a pair of free throws from Alex Eberhard and jump shot in the lane by Kellen Schreiber to extend the lead to six. Doyle started another run for Denison that allowed the Big Red to take a 31-29 lead with six minutes remaining in the first half. The Little Giants answered with an 18-2 run to move in front by 14 before settling for a 13-point halftime advantage.
Wabash, ranked 14th in the D3hoops.com top-25 poll, survived another offensive run by Denison in the opening minutes of the second period. The Big Red got as close as three points at 57-54 with 13:16 left to play in the game before Davidson ended the comeback effort with a three-point basket and three free throws. Denison's Claude Chandonnet connected on a three-point try to cut the Wabash lead to 63-59 before the Little Giants' defense kept the Big Red from scoring over the next four minutes. Wabash used that time to build the lead back to 11 points.
The Little Giants stretched the lead to 18 points with 4:15 remaining in the game. Denison made one final run to cut the advantage to nine points before Schreiber and Davidson scored the next five points to start an 11-3 advantage over the next four minutes that put the game out of reach for good.
Eberhard finished with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the field and a 4-of-4 effort from the free throw line. Wabash shot 28-of-29 from the stripe for 96.6 percent while Denison finished 4-of-10 from the free throw line. Schreiber added 11 points off the bench for the Little Giants.
"I have to remind myself that our guards are still young players," Brumett said. "Jack and Connor Rotterman are still young players. They have a lot of game experience but they're still figuring things out. I thought Wednesday night's game was an awesome environment with 1,600 people at the game with lots of highs and lows. We were behind late in that game. To be able to win that game and then being mentally fatigued heading into tonight's game, I thought our players did a really good job of trying to have a good effort. We didn't necessarily play smart all the time tonight. We weren't as sound as I would like us to be, and our defense wasn't as solid as it has been in many of our previous games. But we had really good effort.
"Obviously Jack carried us offensively, but Conner Brens came in and gave us an awesome stretch in the first half and another in the second half. He kept balls alive and helped us get to the free throw line and put a lot of pressure on Denison. Alex Eberhard ended up playing 35 minutes after a tough Wednesday game. I thought his concentration and mental toughness carried the whole team. Offensively Jack put us in a good position but we had some other guys really make some winning plays to help us get the road victory."
Wabash shot 24-of-57 from the field (42.1 percent) and connected on 9-of-24 three-point tries after opening the game 7-of-12 from long range in the first half. Denison shot 30-of-66 (45.5 percent) and 10-of-33 (30.3 percent) from three-point range. Fourteen Wabash turnovers led to 21 points for the Big Red. Wabash held a 40-32 rebounding advantage in the game.
The Little Giants continue conference play on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. home contest against Ohio Wesleyan at Chadwick Court. Admission is free of charge.