College Sports

Davidson’s off to best start since joining A-10, but Wildcats get tough test Saturday

Davidson’s Jon Axel Gudmundsson is among the leaders in several Atlantic 10 statistical categories.
Davidson’s Jon Axel Gudmundsson is among the leaders in several Atlantic 10 statistical categories. TIM COWIE -

Davidson has been one of the Atlantic 10’s top teams since joining the conference in 2014, winning the league’s regular season title in that first season and a league tournament championship in 2018.

The Wildcats also have a regular-season league record of 47-27 during those four-plus seasons. But Davidson (11-4, 2-0) has never opened its conference season with two consecutive victories, as they did last week.

The Wildcats’ hot start will be tested Saturday when they host Virginia Commonwealth (11-4, 2-0), one of three other teams who are 2-0 in the league, along with Saint Louis and Dayton.

“It’s certainly energizing,” Wildcats coach Bob McKillop said of his team’s start, which includes a 61-56 victory at George Mason on Wednesday.

The Wildcats have gotten a boost from the return of sophomore guard Kellan Grady, who missed four games with a knee injury before returning for Davidson’s A-10 opener last week against Duquesne. Grady, who averages 19.0 points, scored 17 points in both victories against the Dukes and Patriots.

But Davidson’s most important player continues to probably be junior guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who had another of his stat-stuffing games against George Mason, scoring 13 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists and five steals. Gudmundsson ranks fifth in the A-10 in scoring (17.1) and assists (4.7), sixth in free-throw percentage (85.0), eighth in assist-turnover ratio (1.8), all the while averaging 35.5 minutes per game (eighth in the league).

“He’s really positionless,” McKillop said of Gudmundsson, a 6-foot-5 native of Iceland. “He plays with so much energy. You want Jon Axel on your team to play whatever role you need.”

VCU, which overcame an 18-point deficit to beat La Salle 69-63 Wednesday, doesn’t play the “Havoc” defense made famous by former coach Shaka Smart, who’s now at Texas. But, under second-year coach Mike Rhoades, the Rams are still a dangerous defensive club, leading the A-10 in defensive field-goal percentage (37.4, also seventh nationally) and 3-point defensive field-goal percentage (26.6, fourth nationally).

The Wildcats have plenty of long-range shooting options, especially in Gudmundsson, Grady, junior KiShawn Pritchett and redshirt freshman Luke Frampton, who leads the league in made 3-pointers (41).

“It’s clear by their numbers, the shooting percentages they force, we are going to have to be tremendously poised, efficient and effective with our cuts, catches and passes,” McKillop said.