SALEM, Va. — Following a first half where he found himself saddled by foul trouble, Chris Davis displayed each of the offensive elements that made him an offensive matchup nightmare all season: the mid-range jumper, the dribble-drive, the 3-pointer and an ability to get to the foul line.
Time and again, Davis produced highlights that propelled Wisconsin-Whitewater into Saturday night’s national championship game. Following a 26-26 halftime tie he scored 21 of his 30 points across the final 20 minutes of a 71-56 victory against MIT, keeping his career alive for at least another 40 minutes.
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“I definitely didn’t want this to be my last game, so I had to step up and hit some big shots,” Davis said. “That’s what I did today.”
Davis went to the bench with about four minutes remaining in the first half, a plodding opening 20 minutes that enabled MIT (29-2) to stick with the Warhawks (27-5). The second half looked the same early as the Engineers led 32-30 after Mitchell Kates’ lay-up with 16:51 remaining.
Then Davis got going, scoring six consecutive points (and eight overall) to power a decisive 14-0 run that put UW-Whitewater ahead to stay.
The Warhawks built a 44-32 with 11:49 left and were destined to play for their first national championship since 1989.
“Everything seemed to come to life,” Wisconsin-Whitewater head coach Pat Miller said. “I thought Chris played great, hit some shots, and got us going.”
In the past two years, the backcourt of Eric Bryson and Alex Merg saw Davis dominate games like he did Friday night’s second half. They know his emergence means success for the UW-W, and often times open shots.
“Half the time we’re looking to get out of the way he gets doubled,” Merg said. “When he gets going, we want to get him the ball.”
“When he gets going, we just play off the energy around him,” Bryson said, who finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds
As much as energy as Davis gave Wisconsin-Whitewater, his dominance sucked the life out of an Engineers’ squad making its first Semifinal appearance. They shot 3-for-20 from beyond the arc and endured a scoreless drought of 6:31 to see their national championship hopes dashed.
“He’s the best big man we played against all year,” MIT head coach Larry Anderson said. “He made some really tough shots. They may not be tough for him … you could see why he scored 30 today.
“You take that 30 away and we win the basketball game,” Anderson continued.