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Antoine Davis' quest to break Pete Maravich’s NCAA scoring record goes from possible to probable

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 21: Antoine Davis #0 of the Detroit Mercy Titans brings the ball up court during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena on December 21, 2022 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Detroit Mercy's Antoine Davis is just 26 points shy of breaking Pete Maravich's all-time NCAA scoring record. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) (Michael Hickey via Getty Images)

Get ready for a debate over who should be recognized as college basketball’s rightful all-time leading scorer.

Little-known Detroit Mercy combo guard Antoine Davis now could be a single game away from unseating legendary Pete Maravich as the record holder.

Davis extended his college career beyond the opening round of the Horizon League tournament on Tuesday night, tallying 38 points to lead eighth-seeded Detroit Mercy to an 81-68 throttling of ninth-seeded Purdue Fort Wayne. The dazzling performance increased Davis’ career output to 3,642 points, 25 shy of equaling Maravich’s NCAA-record 3,667 career points that has stood since 1970.

While Detroit Mercy would need an upset against top-seeded Youngstown State on Thursday night to advance beyond the Horizon League quarterfinals, Davis may require only one more game to chase down Maravich. The tough shot-making fifth-year senior has averaged a national-best 28.1 points per game this season and has free rein to shoot from anywhere and everywhere as the centerpiece of a team coached by his father.

If Davis surpasses Maravich on Thursday night, it will come with an asterisk. He’d have needed 143 games to do what Maravich did in just 83.

Maravich played at LSU in an era when freshmen weren’t yet varsity-eligible. For three years, he averaged an unfathomable, almost mythic 44.2 points per game despite not having the benefit of a shot clock or 3-point line. Davis has put up 25.3 points per game for a struggling Detroit Mercy program that has posted losing records in all but one of his five seasons. He has taken advantage of the NCAA waiver granting athletes an extra season of eligibility due to COVID-19 disruptions.

Detroit Mercy head coach Mike Davis told Yahoo Sports last week that his son and Maravich ought to be known as record holders.

“I feel like Antoine is the best scorer of this generation and Pistol Pete is the best scorer from his generation,” Mike said.

Jaeson Maravich, Pistol Pete’s elder son, told Yahoo Sports he feels similarly. Jaeson views what Antoine has achieved in five years and what Pistol Pete did in three as “really an apples and oranges comparison,” but he’s also quick to say he wouldn’t lose any sleep if the hallowed record goes to another son of a coach.

“I’m proud of all my dad’s records,” Jaeson said. “I’d like them to stand as long as possible. But if he breaks it, I’m certainly not going to hate on this guy. I’ll be happy for him.”

Davis was a long shot to pass Maravich before this season, but he climbed quickly from 22nd on college basketball’s all-time scoring list. In November, he passed the likes of JJ Redick and Larry Bird. Then he eclipsed guys like Tyler Hansbrough and Oscar Robertson. By late January, there was no one left between Davis and Pistol Pete.

With the record within striking distance, Davis upped his scoring output. He has exceeded 30 points in eight of his past nine games. Twice he has eclipsed 40.

On Tuesday night, Davis’ full arsenal of crossovers, jab steps and step-backs were on display during a 14-for-27 shooting night. The slippery 6-foot-1 guard scored 15 of his team’s first 24 points to get Detroit Mercy off to a quick start and then keyed a 14-0 surge early in the second half to put the game away.

While Davis could have added more points after the score was out of reach, that’s not how he wants to get the record. He passed up a couple of scoring opportunities down the stretch to set up teammates with lobs before exiting the game with about a minute to play.

“I’m more focused on winning than the record,” Davis told Yahoo Sports last week. “If I focus on winning, the record will come with it.”