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Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Home Sports NBA Wildcat Weekly: Davidson bounces back after streak breaks

Wildcat Weekly: Davidson bounces back after streak breaks


Wildcat Weekly | Issue 10 | Cole Vulpis

Davidson did it. After winning 15 games in a row, including victories against Alabama, at VCU and at Richmond, Davidson was ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 2015. In that 2014-2015 season, Davidson had their rankings on the Monday before the A10 Tournament. They drew La Salle in the first round and won. They then advanced to play VCU and lost. This loss then led to Davidson dropping out of the poll.

Last week, they would face the same opponents, VCU and then La Salle. Would Davidson both win and climb the poll or would history repeat itself?

Davidson vs. VCU

From ESPN.

After a streak of three games, Davidson returned to Belk Arena to play VCU. Since Davidson was able to defeat VCU in Richmond, it was certainly plausible that Davidson could handle them at home. That said, VCU definitely gave Davidson a lot of trouble the first time around. Davidson scored 17 innings and won that game by just two.

Davidson started well in that game and led 11-6. VCU then came back, and the two teams were eventually tied at 28 with just over 2 minutes left in the first half. Then VCU went on an offensive explosion and scored tries on their last three possessions. VCU led 37-29 at halftime.

Last time Davidson faced VCU, the Cats had an 8-point lead by half, and VCU closed that lead in less than five minutes. With an 8-point deficit, they certainly could not afford to have another poor start to the second half. Unfortunately, they did. Davidson fell behind by 13 after the first 3 minutes. And despite trying to climb back, the ‘Cats found themselves under 15 with 5 minutes to play.

Then Davidson reduced the lead to 11 and Bob McKillop made a coaching decision that confused the broadcasters. McKillop submitted Emory Lanier. Lanier averages less than 5 minutes per game. He has been getting more minutes at the point guard lately because Grant Huffman has been out of this game and previous games due to injury. But in a draw like this and with little time left, it was definitely enigmatic to see Lanier come in. Well, all he did was deliberately harm a VCU player and get him out. This is not exactly a common thing you see with three minutes left. It ended up being Davidson’s sixth team error, so VCU was now in the bonus.

McKillop’s plan began to make sense as soon as VCU entered the ball after the foul. Davidson did not get a stop immediately, so they harmed Jalen DeLoach. DeLoach made 4 of 20 free throw attempts this season, and McKillop was willing to take that chance. DeLoach missed the first free throw. Davidson ball. And Luka Brajkovic made a basket on Davidson’s next possession.

The ‘Cats then started gaining momentum. Hyunjung Lee got a steal right from the inning, and the Cats drained a try. VCU’s lead was almost down to 6. And shortly thereafter it was cut to 1. In all, Davidson went from 15 to 1 in less than 4 minutes.

But the ‘Cats could not complete the return. They would never get the lead again. When Davidson had the ball and the score was 69-68, Luka Brajkovic was called for an attacking foul. And when they had the ball 70-68 down, Brajkovic’s try was blocked, Mikeal Brown-Jones. There was some drama at the end when Brown-Jones deliberately missed his second release and Davidson called a time-out that they apparently did not have on the broadcast. But that did not matter, as Davidson had a fraction of a second left and Michael Jones’ catch-and-shoot try of Davidson’s entry did not go in. The Cats lost 70-68, their first defeat since November 18, 2021.

Brajkovic led Davidson with 23 points and also led the team with 12 rebounds. It was Brajkovic’s fourth double double this season and the fourteenth of his career. Brajkovic and Nelson-Boachie Yiadom led the team in assists with 2. Davidson had 15 team turnovers, two less than their previous game, but since 17 is their season high, it’s still a lot for the team. Davidson shot 43.2% from the field, 21.4% from deep and 81.8% from the line. Their 3P% was a season low, well below the 50% it was in their last game against VCU. Their 3 made tries also looked like a season low; they also had 3 tries in their previous game against Fordham. The Cats outscored VCU 35-24.

Davidson Vs. The room

From ESPN.

Davidson had an opportunity to bounce back by earning a win against La Salle. And this game was a very special occasion for the Wildcats. It was Bob McKillop’s 1000th game head coaching college basketball, which of course was all spent with Davidson. In addition, Davidson held a jersey retirement ceremony for Lefty Driesell, Hall of Fame coach Davidson, and former Davidson coach and player Terry Holland after the game.

From @DavidsonMBB on Twitter.

The ‘Cats made sure not to sour the ceremony and led La Salle throughout the game. The Explorers did not pick up their first bucket of the game before the 15:14 mark. Davidson had a 7-point lead at halftime and increased that lead to 15 with 7 and a half minutes left. But La Salle started to increase their defensive pressure and forced 5 Davidson turnovers over the last 7 and a half minutes. La Salle were able to shave with a minute over the lead after 4, but Davidson remained calm. Hyunjung Lee shot made four free throws on four attempts to close the game. The Cats as a team made their last 14 releases, allowing for a comfortable 77-69 victory.

It was Davidson’s biggest win since beating UMass eighteen days earlier. Brajkovic led the team to score the fourth consecutive game for now and this time scored 22 points. Sam Mennenga led by 8 in rebounds, and Foster Loyer led the team by 5 assists. Davidson shot 46.2% from the field, 36.8% from deep and 78.6% from the line. They reached the line 28 times. Over the last three games, Davidson has come into play 29, 33 and 28 times. Their previous season highlight in free throw attempts was 23. Davidson shot back La Salle 38-32 and had 10 team turnover.

Takeaways

From apnews.com. AP Poll voter David Jablonski, who finished 14th for Davidson last week, finished 19th this week.

It turned out that history did repeat itself, and like last time, this loss put Davidson out of the AP poll. Davidson was 32nd in the vote today with 10 points. However, their 10 points came from just two voters, meaning 34 voters dropped out of their ballots. This is not really surprising since they were only 25th. They will definitely have a chance to build on their 10 points; the conference season is not even halfway finished yet.

It’s good that their first defeat in a long time has not turned into another one. And now they are still sitting first in the conference at 7-1. It is also good to see that Loyer, who averaged 1.67 assists and 3.33 innings in the three games before the game against La Salle, has 5 assists and 2 innings against La Salle. In other respects, however, the team feels in a similar situation as they were before their victory. Davidson saw increased defensive pressure from opponents and now had 5 consecutive games with double-digit team turnover. Their 3-point shot, which is averaging more than 40% this season, did not surpass the 40% mark in three consecutive games. And the team’s leading scorer, Hyunjung Lee, shot below his points average for four consecutive games. In the game against La Salle, Lee turned 0-5 from depth. Lee gets an average of 2.4 tries per game, but has not had multiple tries in a game in his last 4 games.

Davidson’s problems were similar and so was their answer: Luka Brajkovic. Brajkovic was a beast over Davidson’s conference schedule. Over the last four games specifically, Brajkovic has averaged 21.25 points. He also shoots 65.9% from the field 71.4% from deep (on 7 attempts). These are unreal, Player-of-the-Year-type numbers from Brajkovic. It will definitely be great for Davidson if it continues. However, given that Davidson has had a loss and some close wins over these four games, it’s probably more important to see how Lee and the rest of the team increase in efficiency and score. They will have a chance to do so from tomorrow against St. Louis. Bonaventure.

A look ahead

Davidson visits St. Bonaventure tomorrow (Tuesday) at 19:00. This match will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network. They then go to DC to play George Washington on Saturday at 2 p.m.

St. Bonaventure was ranked at the start of the season and was the favorite to win the Atlantic 10 conference. Now they sit in sixth place in the conference leaderboard and are also fifth in the conference in KenPom and seventh in the conference in the NET rankings. That said, this St. Bonaventure team is definitely still very good, after defeating VCU and Marquette in 24th place by more than 15 points. On top of that, Davidson is 2-4 against St. Louis at all times. Bonaventure at the Reilly Center (2-3 since joining the A10). This match should be a good one and is a great opportunity for Davidson to confirm their NCAA Tournament-worthy resume.

Davidson will be hoping for the return of Grant Huffman in their game against St. Louis. Bonaventure to see. Huffman is often the replacement for Foster Loyer. In the four games in which Huffman missed time, Loyer had more than 35 minutes in each of them, something he had never done before the injury. Huffman’s presence will help give Loyer more time to rest and also enable Davidson to show different lineups against the Bonnies.

Thanks for reading. Come back every Monday for another issue of the Wildcat Weekly! For more Davidson and Atlantic 10 coverage, follow me on Twitter @ WildcatCole24.




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