Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

Leave a comment

Davidson Cruises By URI

Davidson (17-9, 9-6 in A-10) completed a successful homestand with its third straight victory, besting Rhode Island 65-54 in a relatively comfortable game. The win keeps Davidson alive in their quest to earn the fourth seed and a double bye at the Atlantic 10 Tournament. In holding the Rams to 34% shooting, it was one of the best defensive performances of the year from Davidson.

Peyton Aldridge knocked down a triple on the first possession on way to 14 first half points and 24 for the night on 4-6 shooting from deep. The big man was instrumental in helping contain Rhode Island’s bigs with double-teams and weak-side blocks. His box-outs freed the guards to grab rebounds, with Davidson outrebounding the Rams 39-34 on the night.

Jack Gibbs had his floater game going early, and was especially eager to attack the rim in transition in the opening minutes. But after scoring 10 points in the first eight minutes, Gibbs was hounded by Jared Terrell and limited to deep three-point attempts at the end of the shot clock. After making his first three, Gibbs would miss his last 7. Yet still, Gibbs finished with 17 points and only 1 turnover.

Behind them, Brian Sullivan extended his streak of games with a made three to 43 games, the second longest streak in the nation with a trio of threes on way to 9 points. Rusty Reigel also continued his trend of do-it-all games with 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Nathan Ekwu added 11 rebounds and 4 blocks in yet another impressive defensive outing. All five Wildcat starters played 34 minutes or more tonight.

URI cut Davidson’s lead to 5 at the start of the second half but could never put together a run to cut into the Wildcat lead further. Despite many students in attendance for Black Out Belk, the arena was largely subdued due to the slow pace of the game. But Davidson was able to prevent the Rams from picking up any momentum and built their lead all the way back up to 16 with 3:05 to play after a 9-0 run sealed the deal.

Davidson went up 18-4 at the start of the game with a 15-0 run over a six minute span, with Aldridge and Gibbs combining to score every one of those points. From there, the pace of the game dramatically slowed. Davidson held the Rams to 33.3% shooting for the half and went into the locker room leading 32-24.

The offensive focal point for Rhode Island in the early going was Hassan Martin. A year ago against Davidson, Martin had a monster 17 point, 16 rebound, 5 block game. After two buckets on early post-ups from Martin, Davidson sent a double-team at him whenever he caught the ball in the post and from there held him without another basket. However, Martin did sit the entire second half with knee tendinitis aggravated during the first half.

Without Martin on the floor, the Rams, many people’s pick for preseason favorite, were starved for offensive production. Not one player had scored double digit points until there were under three minutes to play in the game. Hammered by the season-ending injury to star E.C. Matthews in the opening game of the season, Rhode Island has struggled to stay afloat. With this loss, they fell below .500 in the conference.

Five players from the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers were in attendance, sitting courtside and cheering on the Wildcats. Devin Funchess, Shaq Thompson, Ryan Delaire, Dean Marlowe and Lou Young earned loud applause when acknowledged by the fans midway through the first half.

Davidson has three conference games to play before the Atlantic 10 Tournament. They travel to Fordham this weekend and will head to VCU before returning home March 5 for Senior Night against George Washington.


Leave a comment

Another 43 From Gibbs Helps Davidson Outlast UMass

Davidson (11-5, 3-2 in A-10) earned a hard-fought 86-74 win over UMass  (8-9, 1-4 in A-10) Saturday afternoon in Belk Arena. Once again hampered by injuries to key players, Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge stepped up to will Davidson past the Minutemen. Gibbs finished with a career-high 43 points, his third 40-point effort of the season.

Despite the UMass defense being keyed in on stopping Gibbs, the junior guard still managed to command the game and make yet another 40-point game look easy. Though he had to work tirelessly to touch the ball, he put together another standout performance, finishing with 43 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. With two defenders on him for most of the game, he found teammates instead of forcing shots that weren’t there. When Davidson needed a bucket to flip the momentum, Gibbs found a way to get it. A three in traffic with 3:05 to play was his biggest shot, restoring the Wildcats’ lead. He was also 15-16 from the free throw line.

“It’s like the great U.S. Air Pilot Sully Sullenberger,” said Coach Bob McKillop with regards to Gibbs’s continued stellar play. “He’s about ready to crash a plane – how’d he become a hero? He went to his checklist. He stayed in the system. He did exactly what he was trained to do. And he became a hero because he did that. Jack is trained. Jack works his tail off in practice and it was evident today, because he went to his checklist and stayed in the system. He landed our plane.”

“He’s gone from being a flight attendant to a co-pilot to a pilot,” continued McKillop about Gibbs’s growth as a player. “Jack was in a different seat today and he has been in a different seat this year, where the responsibility is always on his shoulders. That was a difficult thing for him to make the transition from one seat to the other seat.”

With Brian Sullivan sitting with an ankle injury and Jordan Barham clearly hampered by his knee injury and limited to only 4 minutes, Davidson needed a big game from Peyton Aldridge. And they got it, with Aldridge posting his second double-double of the season, with 14 points and 12 rebounds. The sophomore was noticeably vocal with his teammates, making sure everyone was on the same page at each break in the action and imploring them to keep the pressure up at times. Though he struggled with his shot in the first half, he knocked down a couple big buckets in the second half. The importance of Aldridge’s versatility and ability to relieve pressure with his ball-handling cannot be overstated given Davidson’s recent injuries. Crucially, he also stayed out of foul trouble, and played every single minute of the second half.

Rusty Reigel had the best offensive game of his young career, hitting all three of his shots off the bench, including two second half threes to finish with 10 points. He also hit both of his huge free throws to give Davidson a 5 point lead with 2:47 to play. He has provided tremendous energy off the bench in recent games, but this offensive production was a huge boost. His previous career high for points was only 3, so for him to step up and confidently knock down pressure shots speaks volumes to his makeup.

“I thought our bench has really grown up,” said McKillop, referencing the 16-6 advantage in bench points, led by Reigel’s 10. “You may remember me sitting in this room a month ago and lamenting the fact that we were always at the disadvantage there – that we were not getting enough production. And I think our bench has grown.”

Two straight Donte Clark threes put UMass ahead 69-67 with 4:11 to play after Davidson had led nearly the entire second half to that point. But Andrew McAuliffe answered immediately after with a nifty post move to ignite a 10-0 run for the Wildcats, with Davidson regaining the lead on Gibbs’s triple and stretching the lead back to 8 with 1:43 to play.

The game was a cagey foul fest for the first half but came to life in the second. UMass applied full court pressure nearly the entire game and aggressively fought through the screens as Davidson ran their offense. It wasn’t until after the intermission that both teams were able to attack in transition. From that point, these looked much more like the high-powered offenses we were expecting to see.

The Minutemen were unafraid to shoot today. Trey Davis himself took 23 shots, including 15 from deep and finished with 30 points. Donte Clark, who had been averaging 20 points in conference play thus far, had missed his first 6 from deep before knocking down two in a row.

UMass began the game ice cold from the field. They missed their first 11 triples but shot out of their struggles.  Davidson used a 12-2 run to build an eleven point lead, but the Minutemen countered with a 10-0 run and gained the lead shortly before the half. Davis heated up in the final minutes of the half with three straight threes, which helped send the Minutemen to the locker room with a 1-point lead despite Gibbs’s 18 first half points.

Davidson will be on the road their next two games, at Saint Louis on Wednesday night and at Richmond Saturday afternoon on NBCSN. They next return to Belk Arena in a Friday night showdown with conference power VCU on the 29th.

Leave a comment

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.


Leave a comment

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.

Leave a comment

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.