Brooklyn – With quarterfinal Friday drawing to a close in the Atlantic 10 and the top seed eliminated, Davidson was the top team standing.
The Wildcats, unlike VCU, would live to see another day in New York. Behind a near triple double by Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Davidson would pull away and defeat St. Joseph 70-60 to advance to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
St. Joseph, who pulled off the tournament’s first upset against Duquesne last night started off the game with a slam by Lorenzo Edwards that started a 9-2 run by the Hawks to give them the early advantage.
Davidson answered with a 9-0 while holding the Hawks scoreless for close to five minutes to take a lead before the conference’s leading scorer Charlie Brown Jr. tied things at 11 and snapped the drought with a basket inside.
After a brief exchange of baskets, freshman Luka Brajkovic would put his input on the game, converting on back to back baskets down low as well as knocking down two free throws to give the Wildcats a 17-13 lead with 8:15 left in the half.
“We have been an inside-out team all year,” said Davidson head coach Bob McKillop. “Many times, our outside shots is a result of when we go inside first.”
St. Joseph would tie things at 19 before Kellan Grady would untie it with a basket inside. As the defensive oriented half progressed, no team would find a way to lead by more than two as the half came to a close. Atlantic 10 Player of the Year Jon Axel Gudmundsson finished the half with a reverse layup to give Davidson the 27-26 lead at halftime. Although there wasn’t must firepower in the opening half, St. Joseph had given themselves a chance.
Davidson began to flex its muscle to start the second half. The Wildcats opened the half on an 8-2 run to open the lead to seven and force Fran Dunphy to call a timeout. The Hawks would come out of the timeout with five straight points to make it a one possession game.
From that point on, the Hawks would stick with the Wildcats and not let them get any opportunity to pull away. Davidson would get some distance when Kellan Grady knocked down a three to give the Wildcats a six point lead. But St. Joseph would slice the lead to two points just a minute later. For every move Davidson did, the Hawks would respond almost immediately.
With around seven minutes to play, St. Joseph would finally get over the hump and take the lead, thanks to layups by Lamarr Kimble and Jared Bynum to give the Hawks a 54-52 lead. Kimble would add another basket inside to give St. Joseph some breathing room before Davidson would snap their nearly five minute scoreless streak with a jump hook by Brajkovic and a jumper by Grady to level the game at 56 as time continued to tick down.
Davidson would take a four point lead before the Hawks would match it with two minutes to play. But Gudmundsson would do Player of the Year type things. He would drive on the left side of the basket, put up a floater that would fall plus the foul. He would then follow that up with a slam on Davidson’s next possession to give them a five point lead.
How would the Hawks respond this time?
Lamarr Kimble would be fouled on a three point attempt but would miss all three of them. With St. Joseph trailing by five with under a minute to play, they would be forced to foul to extend the game. Gudmundsson would add three more points at the line that would put the game on ice.
Davidson was led by Gudmundsson, who scored 18 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished six assists. No points we bigger than the five down the stretch of the game.
“I hadn’t played well all game,” said Gudmundsson. “At that point of the game, it was letting the game come to me. I knew I had an advantage so I took it.”
St. Joseph was led by Charlie Brown Jr., who scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. For the Hawks, a hard fought game sees them on the wrong end of the result.
“It’s a numeric game. It’s not a shooting game, but other stats. We turned the ball over 11 times and gave up 17 offensive rebounds,” said St. Joseph head coach Phil Martelli. “Just a little bit rough around the edges. They played until they were exhausted. Just didn’t play hard enough.”
Davidson now awaits for who they will face in the semifinals between Dayton and St. Louis tomorrow afternoon.
PHOTO: Jon Axel Gudmundsson/gettyimages