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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Where to Find Me This Fall & Scattered Thoughts

This past Wednesday, I started an internship at Blackandbluereview.com, a Charlotte-based website that covers the Carolina Panthers. Every Wednesday going forward, I will be heading downtown to help conduct interviews and write articles. My first story came from a ridiculous interview with receiver Philly Brown. You can read that here. Look for at least one of those per week.

Even though I’ve done college basketball coverage for two years, I never really considered it real journalism. I was just a college student after all, even at the NCAA Tournament. But as I stood in the Panthers locker room Wednesday looking for somebody to interview, I realized that I was unabashedly doing real sports journalism. I can’t deny how cool it was standing there interviewing Michael Oher, him of The Blind Side fame, at his locker. I did my best not to be starstruck, but at the end of the day, I am now covering the NFL, and that is just awesome.

At the moment, I’m trying to learn a little about the Panthers each day with a full schedule at school. It’s hectic, but I wouldn’t prefer it another way. So while the content on this site might be sparse and irregular the rest of the fall, I’m still writing. About Davidson for my school newspaper (see my latest piece on our goalkeeper Matt Pacifici here) and about the Panthers.

Now to some scattered thoughts on the world of sports.

-The Patriots offense looked awfully good last night, especially considering that at times, they had three rookies in on the offensive line. Tom Brady just seems to get better each year. There’s no stopping that offense if he, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski stay healthy. However, the defense worries me. DeAngelo Williams should not be looking that good. Once the emotions die down, I think we’ll get a better sense of what kind of a team we really have. But while that wave of hatred is there to ride, I wouldn’t want to play the Patriots.

-Right now, it looks like Ben Cherington’s final success was not trading away Jackie Bradley Jr. “to give him a fresh start.” His presence in the lineup and in the field each day makes baseball worth following. Although I haven’t been able to watch as much as I’d like recently, it brings a smile to my face every time I see what Jackie has done that day. This dismal season has become worth it because of how it gave JBJ chance to resurrect his career in Boston. The next step is putting him in center field every day, but for now, I’ll take him in the lineup. This BBC outfield could be the real deal.

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the Red Sox success right now though. I’m inclined not to trust what Travis Shaw is doing, yet I”m confident that Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello have finally turned the corner in Boston. The way they are playing is going to open up a lot of options to explore in the offseason. Once the ace is mail-ordered, the Red Sox can begin to think about having a legitimately strong team. Plus with all the talent in Single A right now, we have the potential to get really creative with trades.

-Arkansas should have no problem with Toledo tomorrow. While it’s easy to see the blowout of week 1 and immediately discard it, it’s worth remembering that UTEP was no cupcake. And Arkansas tore them apart. I came away incredibly impressed with the state of the defense. The loss of the three core defenders was always going to be overblown, but I wasn’t ready for the defense to look that good already. If tackling improves this week, they should be good to go by the time we get to SEC play in a couple weeks.

Aside from the receivers, who were excellent, I wasn’t as impressed with the offense. Everyone is talking about the improved play of Brandon Allen, but he still has those glaring misses on easy throws that will cost the team points against better teams. And aside from the one long run on a meaningless play, Alex Collins didn’t do a whole lot. The offensive line has to do a better job of making roles at the line of scrimmage, because too often Collins is getting nothing. However, the balance is tremendous. With defenders guessing, Arkansas will be able to lean on play action passes to the real superstar of the team, Hunter Henry. He and Jeremy Sprinkle should tear defenses apart this season.

-Tomorrow should be a good test for Arsenal. But one that if they fail will send out alarm bells. Stoke City has morphed into a pleasing side, but their results show a side that is still coming together. Now is the time to beat them. This is no longer the Stoke team that will sit back and rough Arsenal up, so it’ll be up to the midfielders to create chances. A couple goals would restore confidence in the team. I’m glad to have the EPL back though, as the international break was as boring as a League 2 encounter. Tomorrow will be a good day

-Can it be basketball season already?