West Virginia was without starting guards Alex Rouff and Joe Mazzulla to shoulder injuries, but the Mountaineers had Devin Ebanks. And that was almost just enough to defeat No. 22 Davidson Tuesday night at the Jimmy V Classic.
The 6-foot-9 freshman from Long Island City had 13 points and 17 rebounds and his baseline jumper with 2:17 left in the second half gave West Virginia a two-point lead. However, Davidson superstar Stephen Curry scored a game-high 27 points, including 13 of his team’s final 14 points, to lift the Wildcats to a 68-65 victory at Madison Square Garden.
Part of Ebanks' responsibilities on the night was to limit Curry. He was part of a rotation of long, athletic players trying to stop a player who scored 44 points against NC State on Saturday and is leading the nation in scoring at 31.3 points per game.
It didn’t come easy for Curry, who shot 9-of-27 from the field and 4-of-16 from 3-point range and Ebanks, as well as Da’Sean Butler and Wellington Smith, was to blame.
“I think I got some good looks,” Curry said. “Their length made me rush some shots. They did a great job defensively. Shots that I usually make, they were right there on me.”
Ebanks also dominated on the glass, grabbing 17 boards for a second consecutive game. West Virginia outrebounded Davidson, 58-32.
“Long shots, long rebounds,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “We just got too far under the basket, we didn’t hit bodies...They somehow found a way to have one of their five rebounders grab a rebound every possession.”
Ebanks, who played at St. Thomas More in Connecticut last year, has started the first seven of the season, averaging 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
It was also a homecoming for Brooklyn native Darryl (Truck) Bryant, who came off the bench to score 13 points in 27 minutes for the Mountaineers. St. Raymond’s all-time leading scorer entered play averaging 9.4 points per game with his lone start coming against Cleveland State Saturday.
Bryant had his moments, but also struggled to take care of the ball in the absence of the Mountaineers’ two most experienced guards.
“You’ve got freshmen in positions they’ve never been in,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. “I mean Devin Ebanks plays 33-plus minutes, Kevin Jones plays 21 minutes, Truck plays 27 minutes.”
It was a special trip back to MSG for McKillop, who grew up in South Ozone Park and was close friends with Kevin Joyce, an Archbishop Molloy standout who played at South Carolina. He relieved some of his favorite Garden memories before the game when former St. John’s star Chris Mullin visited him in the Davison locker room before the game.
“I was a high school coach on Long Island (at Long Island Lutheran) and Chris was playing for Xaverian in Brooklyn,” McKillop said. “Chris teamed with Bill Wennington, who played for me in high school. I saw many St. John’s games in this building…Kevin had many enchanting moments in this building at South Carolina during the Holiday Festival. I have seen some of the greatest players play in this building.”
Notes: Staten Island native Steven Rossiter, a 6-foot-7 junior out of Monsignor Farrell, had a team-high six rebounds for Davidson. In the nightcap, No. 6 Texas defeated No. 12 Villanova, 67-58. Corey Fisher from the Bronx and Brooklyn native Antonio Pena were both held scoreless.