(Written for The Davidsonian in my capacity as sports editor. I will post everything I write on this blog as well as on Davidsonian.com)
The Davidson men’s basketball team opened their first ever season as a member of the Atlantic 10 with a 102-66 win against Catholic University at Belk Arena.
Tyler Kalinoski ’15 (19 points, 5-8 from 3) and Jack Gibbs ’17 (17 points on 7-9 shooting, 6 assists, 4 steals) were running the show for Davidson today. The two had complete command of the game and had their way on offense, especially in transition, where they looked to run at every opportunity. In the open floor, they showed off their vision, picking out teammates and pulling up for jump shots.
“Our guards got open and our big guys did a great job of running the pipe on fast breaks and because they did that, the defense sunk in and they gave us those open shots,” Kalinoski said.
Davidson began the game brightly enough, but it wasn’t until the defense got going that the offense began to take off in full. The Wildcats held Catholic without a field goal for a 12 minute stretch in the first half. That 29-9 run late in the first half helped Davidson pull away quickly. At the break, it was 47-23 Wildcats.
The second half was more of the same for Davidson, who were tremendous from deep. Kalinoski and Michelsen combined for seven triples in the opening ten minutes of the half. On the day, Davidson was 15-29 from deep. Everyone got in on the act in the end, and Davidson had 13 players get on the board, with a total of five in double figures.
“I was very pleased with the consistency of our performance from one to half to the other,” Coach Bob McKillop said after the game. “I liked the versatility that we presented, the different lineups we had, the minutes we distributed. I’m very, very pleased top to bottom of our roster in their performance today.”
Picked 13th out of 14 in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, the Wildcats were out to prove the doubters wrong in the home opener. The big questions going into this season were about the play of the front court and whether the bench could provide any consistent scoring. Right from the start, the Wildcats went to battle down low. Davidson dominated the glass, albeit against a Catholic team that possessed no players over 6’7”. And from the bench, Oskar Michelsen ’18 scored 18 points in his debut, hitting six 3’s on only seven attempts, and Jordan Barham ’16 came in and attacked. Davidson’s bench totaled 51 points for the game.
On the whole, Davidson’s offense looks a lot different this year without De’Mon Brooks in the middle. The motion offense around the perimeter allows the Wildcats to spread the floor, and because all five players on the court are shooters, the defense can’t drop off anyone. Davidson is patient when swinging the ball, awaiting the moment when the defense makes a poor closeout or can’t get around a screen quick enough. When someone can catch and drive, or get the ball to someone on the block, the 3 point shooters are open in the corners. Kalinoski and Brian Sullivan ’16 were the two looking to drive off the catch in the half court, and everyone was knocking down the shots.
The freshmen all made a positive start to their Davidson careers. Peyton Aldridge ’18 (7 points, 11 rebounds) and Michelsen were particularly impressive, but Nathan Ekwu ’18 (10 points, 7 rebounds) also looked like he fit right in, highlighted by a thunderous block that sent Davidson down the court for a transition 3. The way Aldridge and Ekwu manhandled the undersized Catholic frontcourt says a lot about their respective abilities. More impressive though was Michelsen’s debut. His stroke from deep looks pure as silk.
“He [has] showed a remarkable feel for the game,” McKillop said of Michelsen’s transition to the college game. “It’s not about athleticism with us, it’s more about feel. And he really understands the flow of a game. I think he’s unselfish – he’ll make the extra pass – but you saw today, he made the shots and he’s not at all hesitant.”
“Our bigs did a great job attacking space and posting up,” Michelsen said. “Our guards did a great job of finding me on the arc and when you get a good pass to the pocket it’s pretty easy to shoot.
Jack Gibbs provided a pair of highlights as Davidson blew the game open late in the first half. All day he had been looking to push the ball, but he finally got free on two straight fast breaks . On the first, he drew two defenders before splitting them with a sweet, lefty bounce pass for an Aldridge slam. He took the second one on his own, powerfully spinning around a helpless Catholic defender for an easy layup. Gibbs has looked sensational thus far.
It will be vital to get Brian Sulllivan ’16 going soon, as the captain struggled shooting the ball all day. He contributed 7 assists, but he missed 10 of his 11 shots. The Wildcats didn’t need his scoring today, but his contribution will be vital going forward.
The Wildcats next contest is Tuesday night at home against Campbell before #6 North Carolina travels to Charlotte for a date with Davidson at Time Warner Cable Arena next Saturday.