(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)
Davidson handily beat a young Stetson squad 90-59 before a smaller crowd of 3,132 inside Belk Arena Saturday afternoon in non-conference action. The win, Davidson’s 4th in a row, moves the Wildcats to 6-1 on the season.
Coming off of an emotional victory over Charlotte on Wednesday, there was always a chance for a let-down. But the Wildcats were focused and used a balance attack to build a large lead. Defensively, the Wildcats limited Stetson to 32.2% shooting, including holding them without a field goal for over ten minutes in one stretch that spanned across the halves. It was sustained pressure for forty minutes that manifested itself in a large margin of victory.
Tyler Kalinoski ’15 once again led the way for Davidson with an efficient showing now typical from the senior captain. He matched his career-high 25 points (including a career-high 7-9 from deep), breaking the 20 point mark for the second time this season and third time in his career. He also had 4 assists, but perhaps most impressively, he grabbed a season high 9 rebounds. With starting center Jake Belford ’16 sitting this one out due to a foot injury, the Wildcats needed the help on the boards.
“[Kalinoski] just continues to get better and better and better,” Coach Bob McKillop said after the game. “He’s the heart and soul of this team. He was the catalyst for why our guys were ready to compete today and I thought we competed the entire game.”
Brian Sullivan ’16 also had an effective game, dishing out a career-high 8 assists while adding 14 points. When Jack Gibbs ’17 went to the locker room for a few minutes late in the first half, Sullivan calmly took the reigns and helped settle the Wildcats in the half court. Sullivan was only 2-8 from three today as his shooting woes continue, but he’s finding other valuable ways to contribute. As a team, the Wildcats dished out a season-high 25 assists.
“I’m still not really shooting as well as I’d like to, but I’m not really worried about it. I’m playing well and I’ve let [the worries about the shooting struggles] go,” Sullivan said. “I wasn’t getting too down on myself because I was still playing really good basketball.”
The highlights again came from Jordan Barham ’16, who’s carving himself a nice scoring role off the bench. These highlights involved a pair of high-flying dunks. The first, which was negated by an offensive foul, involved Barham posterizing a Stetson defender with a left-handed tomahawk. Nobody will remember that he was called for a foul on it. The second came off an inbounds pass below the basket. Barham cut across the lane and soared above a Hatters defender to catch the Kalinoski pass well above the basket. His two-handed alley-oop slam punctuated a perfectly designed out-of-bounds play. And this one counted.
Despite the final margin, the opening minutes were probably the sloppiest Davidson has played this season, with a few too many passes thrown to unsuspecting teammates. It wasn’t necessarily a ton of turnovers, but just a general lack of focus in the opening two or three minutes. Perhaps that could have been because the arena had none of the energy from Wednesday night, or perhaps it could have been a pre-exams lull, but credit the captains for getting their team going quickly. Coach McKillop talked about this being a trap game, but Davidson avoided all potential problems by keeping the throttle on.
Stetson is one of the most inexperienced teams in all of Division I basketball, starting three freshmen and playing another three significant minutes. But today they were also hindered by the fact that Brian Pegg, their leading scorer, didn’t play. They seemed inclined to push the pace in the early going, which was an odd choice. They were often out of control, and their shooters were simply awful (4 of their first 28 from deep).
In the first half, Davidson seemed content with running their half-court sets and getting good looks from three, while Stetson lacked any sort of offensive rhythm. The Wildcats built a double-digit lead in the opening minutes and gradually stretched it over twenty as the Hatters went the last nine minutes of the half without a field goal. Davidson led 48-24 at the break.
Oskar Michelsen ’18 scored 16 points off the bench. And Nathan Ekwu ’18, who got his first start in place of the injured Belford, chipped in 7 points and 10 rebounds. Belford’s injury is a muscular problem in his left foot which happened during the Charlotte game. But McKillop thinks it will only be a few days before he’s back in the starting lineup.
Davidson’s next game is on the road at Montana Wednesday night before returning home for a contest against Niagara next Saturday evening.