DAVIDSON Coach Bob McKillop hadn’t counted on having to depend quite so much on the younger players on his Davidson men’s basketball team at this point in the season.
But with two senior starters sidelined with injuries, there’s a youth movement out of necessity for the Wildcats (4-7), whose latest outing was a 72-58 loss to Drexel on Sunday afternoon in front of 3,430 fans at Belk Arena.
“It shrinks our margin for error,” McKillop said of the younger lineup, which included two sophomores and a freshman in the starting five against the more experienced Dragons (7-2), who came in with victories over Alabama and Rutgers. Two other freshmen and a sophomore came off the bench for Davidson, which lost its second straight game.
“It’s difficult for freshmen to come into a situation where they’re so heavily counted upon and the opposition is so strong,” McKillop said, noting that the Wildcats’ next opponent is North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill.
Sophomore guard Brian Sullivan led Davidson with 14 points, 11 in the first half, and junior Tyler Kalinoski added 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Sophomore guard Jordan Barham added 11 points off the bench.
The short-handed Wildcats, who trailed 37-27 at halftime, closed to within six on five different occasions in the second half – the last time at 54-48 on a pair of free throws by Kalinoski with 6 minutes and 38 seconds to play.
But they couldn’t get any closer to the Dragons, who were led by 25 points from senior guard Frantz Massenat and 17 from guard Chris Fouch.
“We just needed to hit a few more shots,” Sullivan said. “We’re having to adjust right now, and it’s a next-guy-up mentality for us. We feel like we’re capable of being competitive with anybody.”
McKillop wouldn’t speculate on a return schedule for either senior forward De’Mon Brooks or senior guard Tom Droney. Brooks has missed the Wildcats’ last six games with a groin injury, and Droney suffered a sprained foot in the final minute of Davidson’s 83-72 loss at Niagara on Wednesday.
Between them, they’ve accounted for an average of 30 points and 10 rebounds a game this season.
The offensive production of the missing players might have helped in this game, in which the Wildcats missed their first 12 shots from the field and ended up shooting 32.8 percent. Davidson also struggled from the free throw line, hitting 55 percent, including just 6-of-15 in the second half.
“You can’t do that and win a game against a Division I team,” McKillop said. “The free throw shooting is a puzzle for me. We measure our percentage in practice and we’ve hit 86 and 82 percent the last two practices.”
NOTES: The Wildcats’ next home game is at 2 p.m. on Jan. 1 against former Southern Conference rival College of Charleston.
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