Davidson is Going Dancing! Wildcats Win 2018 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Championship
WASHINGTON -- Davidson won its first-ever Atlantic 10 Championship and its second NCAA bid in the last four years Sunday.
Freshman Kellan Grady's go-ahead baseline floater with 74 seconds left ended a nearly 13-minute drought without a field goal for Davidson (21-11) and lifted Curry's alma mater to a 58-57 victory over No. 25 Rhode Island for the A-10 title.
"We won, and we're going dancing, and I couldn't be happier for my guys and for everybody," said smiling senior Rusty Reigel, fiddling with a piece of the net he had just helped cut down. "I just can't wait to get there next week."
Top-seeded Rhode Island (25-7) will be in the bracket despite coming up short in its try for a second conference tournament title in a row.
"I know some of the teams on the bubble probably aren't that happy with us right now, but we're playing for something," said A-10 rookie of the year Grady, who led Davidson with 17 points. "Our goal is to be playing our best in March, and we're really confident. Not only did we get there, but we think we can win in the tournament."
The Wildcats haven't done that since two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry took the 2008 squad to victories over Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin before bowing out against Kansas in the Elite Eight.
This time, Davidson beat Rhode Island despite an 0-for-11 stretch that was ended by Grady's winning basket.
After he made that, Rhode Island had its chances to retake the lead. Among them: A baseline jumper by Stanford Robinson missed, but Grady stepped out with 10.8 seconds remaining while grabbing the rebound.
"Your heart kind of drops for a second," Grady said. "You realize you've got to guard for 10 more seconds. But we did another unbelievable job."
Reigel, whose brother is an assistant to coach Bob McKillop, saw the final opportunity for the Rams this way: "Pretty stressful. I was freaking out a little bit."
But with Grady forcing E.C. Matthews, who led Rhode Island with 20 points and eight rebounds, to his left, the Rams senior gave up the ball. Jeff Dowtin wound up trying a 3-pointer that missed.
It was Matthews' 3 with a little more than three-and-a-half minutes left that capped an 11-point run and put Rhode Island ahead 56-52 before Davidson came back.
"Disappointing result there," Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley said. "Having that four-point lead makes it just hurt."
Peyton Aldridge, the A-10 Co-Player of the Year, and the Championship's Most Outstanding Player, added 13 points and seven rebounds for third-seeded Davidson, which was playing in its first conference final since it joined the league in 2014.
Joining Aldridge on the All-Championship Team was Grady, Dowtin, Matt Mobley from St. Bonaventure and VCU's Justin Tillman.
"Whoever is going to draw them," Hurley said, looking ahead to the NCAA tournament, "is not going to want to see their name next to them."