But there was a miracle anyway, and it was even bigger than the last one.
The Hawks rallied from a 19-point deficit in the second half, and a Cameron Brown three-pointer with 0.7 seconds left delivered a 73-72 win for their first conference victory of the season.
Davidson (13-12, 7-6) jumped out to a huge lead early, up 19-2 six minutes in. St. Joe’s (5-21, 1-12) didn’t score its second basket until the 12:31 mark. The score was 40-21 at halftime.
St. Joe’s cut Davidson’s lead to 61-56 with 4:41 to go, and the crowd stirred to life when Wildcats coach Bob McKillop called timeout. Toliver Freeman gave the Hawks their first lead 67-66 with 2:28 left.
Luka Brajkovic scored a go-ahead basket for Davidson with 10 seconds to go. But there was still time left for a Hawks timeout, then Brown’s buzzer-beating heroics.
Both of these teams shoot a lot of threes, and the swing in three-point shooting between the halves was quite dramatic. St. Joe’s was 0-for-8 in the first half and 9-for-15 in the second, while Davidson was 8-for-13 in the first half and 0-for-7 in the second.
Brown was the game’s leading scorer, with 24 points on 10-for-13 shooting. Freeman added 16, and Rahmir Moore had 14. Kellan Grady had 20 points for Davidson, and Brajkovic had 16.
“When you get down that big, you’re coaching the spirit and you’re coaching your execution. You’re not even coaching to win the game at that point — you can’t think that way because there’s so many individual possessions that you need to add up.” — St. Joe’s coach Billy Lange on facing such a big deficit early in the game.
“When we came in here at halftime, we just had a little bit of a fiery conversation. Probably not one that a coach would normally have with a team [whose] spirit has been a little bit down publicly. Internally, we’ve been amazing. And they went out and owned it, and they did a great job.” — Lange on the second-half comeback.
Of course, the win has to be a huge burden off Lange’s shoulders, and those of his players. And with a home game against 1-11 Fordham still to come on Feb. 29, St. Joe’s might not finish in the conference basement.
Moore earned his career-high 36 minutes on the floor as one of three players who split ballhandling duties. Dennis Ashley took Daly’s starting spot and was the lead guard at first, and Myles Douglas also took a turn. But Moore was in charge by the end of the night, and rightly so.
Put the comeback in this context, too: Davidson ranks No. 27 nationally in offensive efficiency. St. Joe’s had to play a lot of defense in the second half, not just make a lot of shots — and they did so while recording just two blocks and one steal after halftime.