College Basketball

Davidson too strong for Western Carolina

Davidson’s Brian Sullivan chases down a loose ball in Saturday’s Gotham Classic game against Western Carolina at John M. Belk Arena. Sullivan scored a game-high 20 points as Davidson won 87-54.
Davidson’s Brian Sullivan chases down a loose ball in Saturday’s Gotham Classic game against Western Carolina at John M. Belk Arena. Sullivan scored a game-high 20 points as Davidson won 87-54. TIM COWIE - DavidsonPhotos.com

Davidson’s Wildcats are known as a free-flowing, move-and-cut kind of basketball team.

Saturday, they won thanks mostly to their rebounding, pounding Western Carolina 87-54 at Belk Arena in a Gotham Classic game.

The Wildcats (7-1) outrebounded the Catamounts 47-40, including 38-25 on the defensive boards. Leading the way was 6-foot point guard Jack Gibbs, who had 12 rebounds to go along with 17 points.

“We wanted to focus on rebounds and getting the 50-50 balls,” said sophomore forward Peyton Aldridge (17 points, four rebounds). “We knew (Western Carolina was) tough and aggressive all over the floor, so we wanted to get our guards to the elbows and the big (men) flying to the boards, getting on the floor when the ball is loose.”

Gibbs, who entered the game as the nation’s second-leading scorer, said getting to balls rebounding to the “elbow” – the intersection of the free-throw line and the foul lane – is a priority for Davidson.

“A lot of balls get tipped out there,” said Gibbs. “I wanted to keep those balls alive and luckily I got my hands on a few of them.”

Davidson coach Bob McKillop called the victory against Western – a former foe from Davidson’s days in the Southern Conference – one of his team’s most complete efforts of the season.

“Competing for loose balls and rebounds was the best it’s been for us,” McKillop said.

Davidson was able to take advantage of a cold shooting game by the Catamounts (3-6), who made just 26.6 percent of their shots, were 8-of-29 from the 3-point line and 12-of-23 from the foul line.

“I was disappointed in how we shot the ball,” said Western coach Larry Hunter. “When you can’t shoot it in the basket, that makes it tough. We took way too many 3s and settled at times. We didn’t even make our free throws.”

3 who mattered

Jack Gibbs: Wildcats guard had a double-double – before halftime. Ended with 17 points and his 12 rebounds were a career high.

Brian Sullivan: Shouldered the 3-point burden for Davidson, making 6-of-9 and scoring 20 points. Oskar Michelsen went 3-of-8 and the rest of the team went 0-for-14.

Mike Brown: West Charlotte High grad led Western Carolina with 15 points and added three steals and two assists.

Worth mentioning

▪ Davidson forward Jake Belford missed his second consecutive game after suffering a concussion last Sunday at North Carolina. McKillop said Belford is “progressing.”

▪ Here’s how the round-robin Gotham Classic has shaped up so far: Davidson is 2-0, Pittsburgh is 1-0, Western Carolina is 0-1 and Eastern Washington is 0-2. Morehead State plays its first classic game Sunday at Pitt.

▪ McKillop emptied his bench. One of the game’s loudest cheers came when walk-on Kamau Faines scored, was fouled and hit his free throw.

Observations

▪ Davidson’s next game is a big challenge on a big stage: against the ACC’s Pittsburgh at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

▪ Western Carolina also got a strong game from forward Justin Browning, who scored 10 points and had nine rebounds.

▪ Aldridge, who continues to struggle with his 3-point shot (7 for 33 for the season), had a solid game otherwise, scoring 17 points (5-of-10 from the floor), grabbing four rebounds and blocking three shots.

They said it

“I don’t believe in seeking revenge. It never came up, but I’m sure our guys knew about it.” – McKillop, on Davidson’s most recent game against Western Carolina, an overtime victory by the Catamounts against the top-seed Wildcats in the semifinals of the 2014 Southern Conference tournament.

“(Davidson’s) system hasn’t changed. We just didn’t prepare very well for it.” – Hunter.

“We’ll be diligent, get a lot of sleep, drink a lot of water. Our coaches are conscious of it.” – Sullivan on how the Wildcats will spend their eight-day break before the Pitt game.

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