Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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Davidson falls to UNC on the road

#9 North Carolina never gave Davidson a chance in the 98-65 victory over the Wildcats Sunday night in Chapel Hill. It was North Carolina’s seventh consecutive win over Davidson and gives the Wildcats their first loss of the season. Davidson shot a season-low 34% from the field and hit only 8-31 from three.

“North Carolina knocked us on our heels in the opening minutes of the game and they kept us on our heels throughout the game,” said Coach Bob McKillop. “They overpowered us in transition, they overpowered us on the glass, and they created chaos for our offense.”

UNC may boast one of the nation’s most efficient offenses, but it was their defense that shut the Wildcats down tonight. Joel Berry II led the way by making Jack Gibbs work even to touch the ball. Whenever Gibbs could get into the lane, there were hoards of defenders there. Gibbs, coming off of a career-high 41 against Charlotte on Tuesday night, was held to 19 points on 7-20 shooting (3-11 from three) and committed an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers.

“Sometimes, you go through a learning lesson when you miss shots – it throws everything else off,” said McKillop. “Sometimes the shooters try to make up for problems by making shots. And that’s not the way Jack runs our offense. That’s not the way our offense flows. He deviated from our offense quite a bit and I think he was pressing.”

Davidson came into the game top in the country in turnover percentage offensively. But UNC’s length caused 14 turnovers overall. Whenever Gibbs or Jordan Barham drove, UNC always had help from the weak side there to challenge every shot and swipe at the ball. In the half court, Davidson struggled to get good looks, often forced away from the three point line deep into the shot clock. In the rare moments when Davidson did get a good look from deep, nothing fell.

There was a general sloppiness in this game, as the Wildcats were careless with the ball at times. Trying to thread the ball through tight windows were a portion of the turnovers, but there also were dribbling errors and some passes to no one due to miscommunication.

Brian Sullivan, who scored a career-high 31 in the overtime loss the last time Davidson played at the Dean Dome in 2013, was held to 3-10 shooting as he was closely watched by All-American candidate Marcus Paige. Paige, who was playing his second game of the year after sustaining a broken hand, looked smooth in a more secondary role tonight, finishing with 13 points and 4 assists.

UNC started the game with a flurry, taking a 10-0 lead as Davidson missed its first 6 shots. Using their speed to get out in transition and their size to keep possessions alive with offensive rebounding, the Tar Heels were relentless in their attack, with 28 of their 54 points in the paint in the first half. A 22-8 run to close the half gave UNC a 47-24 lead. In the first half Davidson shot only 23.5% from the field.

“North Carolina knocked us on our heels in the opening minutes of the game and they kept us on our heels throughout the game,” said McKillop. “They overpowered us in transition, they overpowered us on the glass, and they created chaos for our offense.”

North Carolina dominated inside in the second half, with Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson having their way in the paint. They were two of five Carolina players in double-figures for the night. Though Davidson’s shooting improved, they were never able to get the lead under 20 points. Barham, who had some success getting to the rim, appeared to injure his ankle on a drive early in the second half, but would later return. A late 17-5 run from UNC would stretch the lead after Davidson had kept it around 20 points for much of the second half.

“I just watched the tape of the Charlotte game where they made everything,” said UNC coach Roy Williams after the game. “I think the defense had a little bit to do with it but I also think they missed shots they normally make.”

A year ago, North Carolina doubled Davidson’s rebounding total when the two teams met, and tonight it was more of the same, with the Tar Heels holding a 52-31 advantage on the boards. 15 of those were on the offensive end. McKillop attributed the poor rebounding to not having found a way to overcome Tyler Kalinoski’s departure yet. Where the star man from a year ago got a disproportionate amount of fifty-fifty balls, the Wildcats have not been winning those to the same extent this year.

On the injury front, Jake Belford suffered a concussion from an inadvertent blow to the head at the halftime buzzer and was on the ground for a few minutes before heading to the hospital for a CT scan.

Davidson will look to bounce back when they host Eastern Washington on Wednesday night at Belk Arena in a Gotham Classic matchup. Tipoff will be a late one at 8:30 pm.



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With Curry Watching, Gibbs Puts On Show With 41 Points

With NBA MVP Stephen Curry sitting just behind the Davidson bench, Jack Gibbs put on a show for the ages in a 109-74 Wildcat romp over cross-county rivals UNC-Charlotte. It is Davidson’s third straight victory in the Battle for the Hornets’ Nest and gives Bob McKillop his first ever 5-0 start at Davidson. The win also marks the first 5-0 start at the school since the legendary Lefty Driesell took the 1968-69 squad to that mark in his final year.

Gibbs, who scored a career high 41 on 14-17 shooting (6-7 from three) in only 29 minutes, put on a shooting clinic in the first half. He hit all nine of his shots, including three from deep. After halftime, he picked up right where he left off, making his next five shots before a corner three finally bounced off the rim. He hit from everywhere on the floor, including a couple well behind the arc. Powerfully blowing by helpless defenders, he made the young Charlotte backcourt look silly with an array of flicks and banks. Curry was left shaking his head in the crowd.

“Sometimes, a shooter gets in a zone,” Coach McKillop said of Gibbs’s performance after the game. “With Baryshnikov in the stands, we had a little bit of inspiration. The players knew he was here and Steph’s been so good to our guys. That kind of inspiration can really be magical. I thought Jack and Brian [Sullivan] had some magic tonight with their shooting.”

Gibbs’s 41 were the most points in a game for a Davidson player since Curry himself scored 43 vs. Appalachian State in March of 2009. Despite hitting his first 14 shots, it took extra effort for Gibbs to get the 40th point. But after missing a couple tightly contested shots, he broke the barrier at the charity stripe. Just like when Curry put up 44 with LeBron James watching, Gibbs played his best with the eyes of the reigning NBA MVP upon him tonight.

“I thought we did a pretty good job of executing on offense,” Gibbs said postgame with a huge grin on his face, unaware that he had made his first 14 shots. “Luckily I got some open shots and hit a few of them. And then a few more.”

UNCC looked to be gaining some momentum right after half when Ridell Camidge knocked down his third three in a row with 19:23 to play, but Davidson followed with a lightning quick 9-0 run to blow open the game once and for all. A Gibbs-to-Barham alley-oop in the middle of the run all but silenced the 49ers crowd for good. When Gibbs followed a 49ers free throw with his own personal 9-0 run, the Wildcats were suddenly up 79-47 with 15:53 to play. The 49ers would not make it close again.

Davidson had come out on fire in the first half, hitting their first five shots, forcing Mark Price into an early timeout down 12-2. Before Charlotte could breathe, Davidson had a 35-17 lead. Starting 13-15 overall and 7-9 from three, the Wildcats simply could not miss in the opening ten minutes. After a nifty Gibbs move made it 55-29, UNCC went on an 11-0 run to cut into the lead. But a Gibbs bank shot at the buzzer sent the ‘Cats to the locker room up 59-43. For the half, Davidson shot 68% overall.

Brian Sullivan started just as hot as Gibbs, hitting his first four threes on his way to a 23-point night, his second straight 20-point game. The national leader in minutes per game finally got a well-earned ten minutes rest in the second half with the Wildcats way up. Sullivan was also a key part of the gang rebounding Davidson needed to counter the 49ers’ size advantage.

“We need to be team of defenders,” McKillop said of what he thought was the best team defensive performance of the young season. “We don’t have any sheriffs on the team. We have no shot blockers on the team that are going to lock the rim up. We have to be a group of five guys cohesively joined at the hip, making sure we protect the rim.”

Peyton Aldridge, whose play has been a key factor in Davidson’s hot start, began the game with a contested three and consistently chipped in with big shots and big rebounds. He finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds. Jordan Barham rounded out the group of Wildcats in double-figures with 14 points.

Though Charlotte was able to get some buckets due to their superior offensive rebounding, there wasn’t much else to critique in the Wildcats’ performance, which was the most lopsided victory over UNCC in McKillop’s tenure. The veterans played well, Nathan Ekwu and Rusty Reigel had impressive performances off the bench and of course there was Gibbs. Then with the ugliest trophy known to mankind in hand, they walked over to celebrate with Curry and his family.

Coach McKillop made sure to say a public thank you to Mark Price for allowing this game to be moved up so that Curry could attend in advance of the Golden State Warriors-Charlotte Hornets game tomorrow night.

Next up for Davidson is a trip to Chapel Hill where the Wildcats will take on Roy Williams’s UNC Tar Heels on Sunday evening looking to extend their winning streak. UNC, who were ranked #1 in the polls as recently as two weeks ago, will provide a tough test by any definition.

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Gibbs’s 35 Help Wildcats Overcome Cold Shooting in Season Opener

Opening up the 2015-2016 with a flurry, scoring 55 in the first half, Davidson had to overcame 1-14 shooting from deep in the second half to hold on for a 90-85 victory over University of Central Florida.

A year after shooting 15-17 from the field on his way to a career-high 37 against UCF, Jack Gibbs showcased his ability to get to the rim tonight, finishing with 35 despite 2-9 shooting from deep. 21 of those came in the second half when he took over the game. His ability to change speeds allowed him to blow by defenders in transition in the first half, but when things slowed down in the second, Gibbs was particularly impressive in the way he created space for himself in a crowded lane.

After an up-and down first half, the second half was a defensive struggle. UCF used a 14-2 run at the start of the second half to take a 59-58 lead, aided by two dunks from 7’6″ freshman Tacko Fall. In that seven minute stretch, the Wildcats missed ten of their eleven shots and committed two turnovers. After starting the half 2-17 from the field as a team, Davidson took a 69-63 lead on 7-0 run courtesy of Gibbs midway through the half. However, UCF would answer and had trailed 78-77 with 3:53 to play. A nifty move from Gibbs stretched the lead to 86-81 with 46.3 remaining. From there, Davidson would hold on.

When Davidson went cold from deep, Jordan Barham’s play on the block was key to the Wildcats getting buckets. Despite the disadvantage in size, Barham was able to make space with his spin-move onto the left hand and showed off his touch with some tidy finishing. His change-of-pace option alongside Gibbs helped keep the Wildcats going despite the struggles from deep. Gibbs and Barham combined for 28 of the Wildcats’ 35 points in the second half.

Jake Belford marked his return from a season-ending knee injury a year ago with his first career double-double. Showcasing his stroke from deep early, he posted a line of 10 points and 12 rebounds. His presence on defense made a huge impact. Fall, cleared to play by the NCAA early Friday morning, was the story coming in. But Belford helped slow the sideshow before it got started, forcing him to turn the ball over twice in the opening three minutes. Fall improved in the second half, finishing with 4 points and 2 blocks in 14 minutes.

In the first half, Brian Sullivan was there to knock down a couple momentum-building threes, finishing with 15 points in 38 tough minutes. Kept tightly guarded all game, he was able to find space off of offensive rebounds and took his opportunities when they came. Though he was held to a lone basket in the second half and finished only 3-9 from deep, it was his hustle plays late and strong defense that deserve praise.

After slowing the game down for the first portion of the first half, UCF got back into the game when they pushed the pace after Davidson misses. Adonys Henriquez (18 points) and Matt Williams (12 points) were quick to fire from deep and got the Knights within one at 35-34 with 5:33 to play in the first half. However, Davidson stretched the lead back out to 1o by the break, taking a 55-45 lead to the locker room.

Also notable this year is the emergence of Andrew McAuliffe’s three-point shot. The big junior, who had been 0-2 from deep in his first two seasons, confidently stepped up to take and make a three early in the first half.

Davidson returns to the court next Saturday at home to former Southern Conference opponent College of Charleston.

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Davidson Rolls Past Lenoir-Rhyne in Exhibition

Many teams in college basketball are going to have to adjust to the 30-second shot clock this year. But as many expected, the rule change looks to be only a positive thing for the Wildcats. With the speed of the game ratcheted up, Davidson was able to get out in transition all day as they cruised past Lenoir-Rhyne 96-64 in their lone exhibition game before the 2015-2016 season.

“A lot of positives to take out of this game. A lot of encouraging signs,” Coach Bob McKillop said after the game. ” I thought we had terrific rhythm today.”

The star of the day was junior Jack Gibbs, who finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Taking 21 shots, most if not all within rhythm, the guard seems ready to take on even more responsibilities this year. Before the first media timeout, Gibbs had already chipped in a three, a rebound, an assist, a steal and had taken a charge. Thereafter, he carved through the Lenoir-Rhyne defense time after time. In the halfcourt, once he found his three-point stroke, he piled in the triples in quick succession. 19 of Gibbs’s points came in the more competitive first half.

Brian Sullivan also looked terrific in the backcourt, as he finished with 22 points himself. Without Jordan Barham in the lineup today, it’s hard to know how much of today’s offensive gameplan will apply going forward. But Brian Sullivan’s role included more of the cuts and drives to the basket that Tyler Kalinoski thrived on a year ago. On the day, Sullivan got to the free throw line an astounding 13 times. Considering his high percentage at the line, if he’s attacks like he did today, that can only be a good thing.

“Personally I just want to come out and be more aggressive in many different areas,” said Sullivan. “I think Tyler did a really good job of attacking [last year]. So I just wanted to come out aggressively and attack. The refs are calling things a little tighter. So you have to take advantage of it on offense and on defense you have to be extra careful to show your hands. They’re calling it a little differently this year.”

One noticeable change from last year is the size Davidson is putting on the court. Where last year, an injury to Jake Belford forced the Wildcats to go small for most to the year, starting Peyton Aldridge at the five, Davidson now is able to play Aldridge at the three in certain lineups with Belford back. Today’s starting five of Belford, Aldridge, Sullivan, Gibbs and Oskar Michelsen contained three players 6’7″ or above. And while Belford struggled with his shot in his return to action today, a dunk late in the second half showed that his explosiveness has returned.

Aldridge looked especially comfortable today in his expanded role. Showing off his versatility on both ends, he posted a double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds. He was the beneficiary of a number of Gibbs’s assists and looked dangerous in the open court. At one point, Aldridge even took over at the point for a possession when Gibbs and Sullivan were on the bench.

Using a 22-2 run to build a big lead within the opening minutes, Davidson was largely on cruise control against the Bears, leading 48-23 at half. While Lenior-Rhyne was able to take advantage of some early-season sloppiness on Davidson’s part to keep the game from getting out of hand, Davidson never let them get too close.

Davidson did not have their best shooting day, shooting 42.6% from the field and 37% from deep, but it hardly mattered with the way they were defending the Bears, who Davidson forced into many bad looks. While the Bears ended up at 37.9% shooting, they were well below that for much of the game.

An area of concern right away is going to be health. In addition to Barham being in a suit, Jordan Watkins and also sat out. Both are questionable for next week. With freshmen Dusan Kovacevic and KiShawn Pritchett both out for the season with knee injuries, the Wildcats are dangerously thin. Especially with Will Magarity sitting out there year due to transfer restrictions, the depth on this team will be tested immediately.

At the moment, Davidson might not have the players to withstand a foul-heavy game. Oskar Michelsen picked up four quick fouls today, but played through the foul trouble, with others needing rest. Getting Barham and Watkins back healthy quickly will be key. Other issues such as the turnovers and the miscommunication on rebounds come with the territory. It was an exhibition game after all. Even the cheerleaders messed up their C-A-T-S cheer in the second half. But you can get bet a lot more will be ironed out before Saturday’s opener.

Early in the first half, Davidson had Andrew McAuliffe, Nathan Ekwu and Aldridge out on the court at once, something I don’t believe they ever did a year ago. The versatility is still there offensively – McAuliffe even stepped up to make a three when this lineup was on the floor – but these bigger lineups should help significantly on defense, where they won’t have to worry so much about mismatches inside.

Besides Gibbs’s strong day, Aldridge’s display of versatility and Belford’s return, some other positives from the day included strong free throw shooting (34-40) and a general smoothness to the offense despite the relatively low shooting percentages. All day, Davidson was able to get good shots, balancing attacks to the basket with its usual barrage of three point shots.

Davidson opens up the season at home to UCF next Saturday night at 7:30. Last time these two teams met, Gibbs scored 37 in a 95-69 rout of the Knights.

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What I’m Watching at the Emirates Cup

Now back from a memorable five day trip to Scotland, I’m getting fully pumped up for the Arsenal season to start. Tomorrow will be the first of three straight weekends I’ll see the Gunners play before I head back to the states. While the Emirates Cup may only be a preseason match, that hasn’t tempered my excitement for my second ever trip to the Emirates. Getting to see Wolfsburg take on Villareal beforehand is a welcomed bonus for what should be a fun day. (Can we also note how weird the marketing for the event is this year? Those robot eyes are downright creepy.)

There’s been relatively little in the last few days about the squad for the tournament, so anything about who the team will be is merely guesswork at this point. The starting XI I’d like to see would be Cech, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Coquelin, Wilshere, Ramsey, Özil, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott, but I suspect it’ll be a mixture of presumed starters and squad players. But given that this isn’t my only chance to see the team this summer, I’ll be happy with whoever is out there.

The depth across the board right now is truly ridiculous, as Arsene Wenger could field two legitimate XIs without having to dip into the academy. We could just as easily see Ospina, Debuchy, Gabriel, Chambers, Gibbs, Arteta, Flamini, Welbeck, Cazorla, Rosicky and Giroud. And that’s before factoring in the likes of Serge Gnabry, Gedion Zelalem and Chuba Akpom, who probably will feature in some role this weekend. I haven’t even mentioned Alexis Sanchez, who will be returning from his post-Copa America holiday at the start of August. That depth is a large reason why I’m so optimistic about the season right now.

While Manchester United and Liverpool have been throwing around the cash, Arsenal has quietly built a very strong squad around their marquee signings of the last few years. Liverpool and United both still have obvious holes in defense, but the Gunners squad has none. Even at forward and in the defensive midfield role, Arsenal have two or three legitimate options. I’m not saying Wenger couldn’t add an even better player in the coming month, but any other business in the transfer window would augment an already strong squad. Even Chelsea is looking a little thin in midfield right now.

As far as this weekend, it’ll be a vital last bit of a rushed preseason before the FA Community Shield next weekend, which while many call it a glorified friendly, I doubt Wenger will want to lose to Jose Mourinho again. He will have his team ready. So this weekend then offers the final chances to many to impress. The name being thrown around the media this week as needing a strong Emirates Cup is Chuba Akpom. While I agree, I don’t think he will start a game given how close we are to meaningful games. If he isn’t loaned out, he will be required consistently to make immediate impact off the bench if he wants to contribute. So perhaps bringing him on late would be better preparation. I just don’t see a scenario in which he is starting Premier League games this campaign.

For me, the player with the most to prove is Mathieu Debuchy. With Debuchy being Wally Pipp’d last year by Hector Bellerin, he never got a chance to show his worth. Everybody seems to want Bellerin back in the side straightaway given how much promise he showed, but I wouldn’t bet against the French international Debuchy. If he shows he’s the same player he was at Newcastle in the early going, the right-back spot might be his to lose. I think we’ll see a lot of rotation between the two of them this season, but it will ultimately come down to form. Making a good impression in the final preseason games wouldn’t hurt.

I’m also quite interested in how Wenger sets up the midfield. Will he push Jack Wilshere wide again? Will he pair him with Aaron Ramsey in the middle? Where will Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott start? These are all crucial questions in the buildup to the season. Remember that last year Wenger deployed Tomas Rosicky as a false-9 in the first preseason games, so I’m not convinced he’ll stick with Wilshere out wide. However, one of he or Ramsey needs to play wide if they hope to start, because I don’t see Santi Cazorla being dropped next to Francis Coquelin. And up front, I’d stick with the Ox out wide and give Walcott another few chances through the middle. Altogether, we’ll learn a lot about Wenger’s thinking this weekend.

On another note, I’m thinking about getting a new jersey tomorrow to mark seeing Arsenal play a few times in person. I’m not especially in love with either the home or away though, so I’m going to wait to see them in person to make that choice. The next choice of which player to get though is even tougher. With Walcott’s contract status up in the air and Alexis likely sitting the three games I’m attending, I am now picking between Coquelin, Ramsey, Bellerin, and the Ox. I was given an Özil shirt from last year, so he’s out of the equation for this one. I’d go with Coquelin, but I’m afraid he won’t stick with the number 34 for long. I used to say Ramsey was my favorite player but I’m not so sure anymore. He’d be the safe choice. However, I might still be leaning Coquelin’s way. I might have to flip a coin between those two. If you have any advice, put it in the comments.

Anyway, this is a great time to be in England. Away from the miserable Red Sox and still able to follow all the NBA drama, I’m in the heart of soccer country as the season gets going. And by the time I get back it’ll be nearly football season. I get more excited about Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks every day. It’s always this time every year where I start watching Youtube videos of great Razorback games and listening to the networks’ college football theme songs. For the record, I think putting the offensive line on the media guide is extremely cool.

I can’t believe the news about the three Arkansas basketball arrested for forgery. Beyond being stunned by the impact to the program, I’m astounded by the stupidity of their actions. The evidence sounds pretty convincing to me, so I suspect they won’t play for the Hogs again and will spend the next few years in prison. What a shame.

Lastly, to end on a happier note, I want to congratulate former Davidson basketball star Tyler Kalinoski on signing with Elan Chalon in France. I can’t say I know much about that team, but they’ve got themselves a real winner and a heck of a basketball player.

I hope to write again this weekend about my day at the Emirates Cup tomorrow. Thanks for reading.