Jonathan Swann – After beating George Washington last Wednesday and UMass this past Saturday, the men’s basketball team is looking to keep the momentum going in their final conference games before the A10 tournament in Pittsburgh on March 8-12. With a 14- 11 record (and 7-7 record in conference play), the ‘Cats are hoping for a run in the tournament to bolster their credentials and perhaps win the championship to grab an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Overall, this season hasn’t been the best for Wildcat fans and the team. Davidson was picked to finish 4th in the A10 in the preseason poll, but is currently sitting in 8th place. ere’s a number of reasons for this. Injuries are a big reason, as it seems like every player has struggled with some sort of injury over the course of the season. Jack Gibbs ’17 missed the first game of the season against Appalachian State with a knee injury suffered in practice, and that injury has foreshadowed the flurry of injuries and other ailments the team has faced.
Dusan Kovacevic ’20, who redshirted last year because of an injury, was lost to another sea- son-ending injury last month. Jordan Watkins ’18 dealt with a concussion and was out a number of games and Will Magarity ’18 just suffered a concussion as well. Rusty Reigel ’18 did not play in a few games because of the flu, and Nathan Ekwu ’18 had a knee injury that kept him out of action for about a month. In the UMass game, Peyton Aldridge ’18 suffered an injury in the game versus UMass, and it was clear he wasn’t 100% the rest of the game. Gibbs recently broke his nose in practice and has been wearing a mask the past few games.
Gibbs and Aldridge form the second most productive duo in the nation, with Gibbs 15th in the nation with 21.2 points per game and Aldridge 23rd in the nation with 20.2 points per game; their combined points per game is only behind Marcus Keene and Braylon Ranson from Central Michigan. Aldridge is also averaging 7.7 rebounds per game. When either Gibbs or Aldrige doesn’t play well, the other players on the team need to step up, and in a number of games that has happened, but in other games it has not.
However, the freshmen on the team has proven they are talented and can form a solid foundation for the years to come. Jon Axel Gudmunsson ’20, from Iceland, has started all but one game and has averaged 32 minutes a game. He is averaging 7.8 points per game, along with 3.5 assists per game and 32 steals. His composed play as a guard has eased the pressure on Gibbs to carry the ball up the floor. Kishawn Pritchett ’20, a red- shirt freshman, is now part of the starting lineup and has good ball-handling skills as well.
Magarity, a transfer from Boston College, has played a solid role on the team as a big man, averaging 9.1 points per game and 5.2 rebounds. With the extent of Magarity’s concussion unknown, Andrew McAuliffe ’17 and Ekwu need to step up, and McAuliffe so far has shown he is capable, with a career-high 14 points against UMass.
In their nonconference games, the Wildcats have compiled a 7-4 record, with good wins over Missouri and Arizona State. A loss to former conference foe College of Charleston was a tough blow. In December, the ‘Cats played UNC and Kansas, two national title contenders this year. The game at UNC was exciting, as the ‘Cats started strong, fell behind, but mounted a comeback late in the second half to pull within three. In the end, the free throws and three-point shooting of the Tar Heels allowed the Heels to win 83-74. Though the ‘Cats led at halftime versus Kansas, the talent of the Jayhawks meant the Wildcats were unable to sustain their lead and lost 89-71.
The conference play of the ‘Cats has been up and down. Losses to Richmond and GW initially led to a 2-2 record in the next four games, highlighted by a quality win against VCU. After that the ‘Cats had a 3-game winning streak against Duquesne, Fordham, and St. Joseph’s and then a 3-game losing streak against URI, George Mason, and VCU, and now a 2-game winning streak. To say the ‘Cats have been inconsistent this season is an understatement, but that’s college basketball to some extent. (Just think of March Madness). The talent is there, but the play hasn’t always showed up to match it.
But with only a few conference games left to play, and the ‘Cats currently on a winning streak, the momentum could help the team in the next few games and the A10 tournament. In the tournament, although VCU and Dayton are favorites to win the championship, in the Cats’ have the talent to beat any other A10 team and the Wildcats hope to do just that and leave a legacy, especially since Gibbs, who has drawn comparisons (warranted or unwarranted) to Steph Curry as both are talented point guards, is graduating this year.