(Written for The Davidsonian in my capacity as sports editor.)
In the midst of the Atlantic 10 February grind, and without star guard Jack Gibbs ’17 once again, Davidson (14-6, 5-4 in A-10) were flat against St. Bonaventure. But a clutch three from Peyton Aldridge ’18 gave Davidson a one-point lead with 4.0 seconds left, and it seemed the Wildcats would get away with one. But Marcus Posley drove the full length of the floor and hit a floater at the buzzer to give St. Bonaventure (12-8, 5-4 in A-10) a 62-61 win at Belk Arena.
The inbounds pass underneath the basket went to Youssou Ndoye, who handed the ball off at the free throw line to Posley as he gathered speed. Posley, the A-10’s third-leading scorer who finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds, split two Davidson defenders near midcourt. He released a right-handed floater near the free-throw line, and as the clock hit zero, the ball hit the back rim and popped up enough to fall straight into the basket. The bench erupted as Posley turned and ran towards midcourt with his teammates soon draped over his back.
Davidson shot only 39.3% from the field as they struggled to create offense against the stingy Bonnies. On the other end, St. Bonaventure was led by a strong performance from their senior 7-footer Youssou Ndoye, who proved unguardable for much of the game, while being a menace on the defensive end, blocking and altering too many shots to count, including two in a row in the final minute. Ndoye finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks.
This was a night where seemed things just weren’t going Davidson’s way. Airballs were turned into fortunate offensive rebounds for the Bonnies, and the referees didn’t do Davidson many favors with their lenient officiating tonight. They let the boys play, but for a Wildcats team that was overmatched physically, that wasn’t a good thing.
Brian Sullivan ’16 (17 points, 5 assists) was the bright spot for Davidson, as he made some plays in the second half while others struggled shooting the ball. After an uncharacteristically sloppy half with the basketball, Sullivan settled down and was able to get teammates the ball in great positions. Late in the half, he was the one that stepped up to make shots when nothing else was falling, giving Davidson the lead back with 4:28 to play with five straight points after it seemed St. Bonaventure had seized the momentum.
Tyler Kalinoski ’14, Sullivan’s partner in the backcourt, had an off-shooting night, going only 4-11 and was held scoreless for the first 17 minutes of the second half. He missed a couple of free throws in the final minutes as well. He did finish with 13 points and 7 assists, but it was a tough day for the senior captain.
Coming off of a rough loss on the road at St. Joseph’s, a game Davidson led by 13 at halftime, Coach Bob McKillop switched up the starting lineup today, giving Andrew McAuliffe ’17 and Oskar Michelsen ’18 their first starts of the year in hopes of injecting some energy into his team. But Davidson did not get the immediate results it wanted, as the Wildcats looked incredibly disjointed early, turning the ball over three times on the first six possessions and five times before the second media timeout. McKillop could be heard yelling, “Wake up” to his players as St. Bonaventure took an early 10-2 lead.
The first half was the sloppiest I’ve seen this team play all year, especially the opening ten minutes. But despite that, a Kalinoski three, with his defender Andell Cumberbatch holding his face near midcourt after a scrum for the ball, gave Davidson its first lead of the night with 3:40 left in the first half. And somehow, despite 39.3% shooting and seven turnovers, the Wildcats led 33-29 at the break.
The second half as a whole was a defensive struggle on both ends as neither team could get much going consistently. Points were hard to come by as both teams couldn’t hit shots. Ndoye made his presence felt on both ends as the Bonnies blocked a ton of shots inside. Davidson led for nearly the first thirteen minutes of the second half, but an Ndoye dunk tied the game at 46 with 7:20 to play and a Marcus Posley three gave the Bonnies the lead shortly thereafter.
Ndoye, the A-10’s second leading rebounder, presented many problems for the Davidson frontcourt with his physical play on the block. The Bonnies looked to get the ball down low to their 7′ Senegalese center early and often, and he became the focal point of their offense in the closing minutes. Jordan Barham ’16 stepped in to limit the star big man with some solid help defense early, but Ndoye grew into the game as it wore on and couldn’t be defended as he showed off an his arsenal of post moves. Rarely do you see a player that big run the floor as well as he did after playing 36 minutes.
The Wildcats are in a bit of dangerous period right now as they wait for Gibbs to return from injury. They’ve been inconsistent without him offensively to say the least, and have gone into a bit of a funk since the emotional Dayton victory that came immediately after Gibbs’s injury in practice. The fear now is that if Gibbs doesn’t return soon, postseason hopes might be lost with another lackluster offensive performance like this one.
While it’s evidently clear that the Wildcats dearly miss Gibbs at the point, one bright spot about the last few games without Gibbs has been the emergence of Jordan Watkins ’18. Watkins has been thrust into a significant role in the midst of A-10 play and has played well, providing a spark off the bench with a willingness to attack and some scrappy defense. Today, he helped get Davidson back into the game with five straight points late in the first half.
It’s worth mentioning that St. Bonaventure brought a tremendous contingent of fans to the game, which gave their team a boost. I think it’s fair to say they outnumbered Davidson students tonight. With many of them coming from northern New York, count me as impressed. The home court advantage Davidson had against Dayton last time they took the floor here was largely neutralized, although the Davidson townspeople did make more noise tonight than they normally do. I’m sure I am not alone in being disappointed at how few students came to the game though.
Davidson will look to break its losing streak as its three game home stand continues on Saturday when the Wildcats host Duquesne at Belk Arena in a 7 pm tipoff.