Wed, 25 May 2022

After seven-year poll drought, No. 25 Davidson takes on VCU

Field Level Media
25 Jan 2022, 18:40 GMT+10

While extending its winning streak to 15 games, Davidson has walked a tightrope in the Atlantic 10, winning its past three conference games -- all on the road -- by a combined eight points.

The Wildcats now have been rewarded by making the AP rankings for the first time since March 2015. On Wednesday, No. 25 Davidson (16-2, 6-0 Atlantic 10) returns home to oppose Virginia Commonwealth (11-6, 4-2).

After going 13-9 last year and losing two of its first three this season, the Wildcats seemed destined to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the A-10. However, in the C.M. Newton Classic on Dec. 21, Davidson ruined the party with an upset of then-No. 10 Alabama, 79-78.

That was the eighth win in the Wildcats' current 15-game streak, which matches No. 1 Auburn for the nation's high. Davidson is off to its best start since opening 17-1 in the 1964-65 season under legendary coach Lefty Driesell.

Davidson's success is built on its 3-point marksmanship. The Wildcats have hit 41.6 percent of their tries from beyond the arc, trailing only South Dakota State in Division I. The prime threats are Lee Hyunjung, who has made 111 treys with 41.4 percent accuracy, and Michigan State transfer Foster Loyer (102, 47.1 percent).

The Wildcats get open looks with their motion offense, featuring off-ball screens and cuts. Lately they've faced exotic defenses designed to take away those options, as was the case Saturday in a 69-66 win at Fordham. The Rams put man-to-man pressure on the Wildcats' three guards and had their two other defenders guard sections of the court.

"It plays a little chaos with your offensive flow," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "Teams are targeting us clearly as a very good team. They're devising game plans that are totally different from what they normally do to try to disrupt us."

Davidson survived Fordham as one of its unguarded players, sophomore Sam Mennenga, posted his second career double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

"I was able to get some (rebounds) because we weren't making shots," Mennenga joked.

On Wednesday night, defensive-minded VCU promises to bring its unique brand of pressure. On Jan. 18, the Rams had a six-point lead on the Wildcats with less than five minutes to go but Luka Brajkovic drained a 3-pointer to trigger a nine-point run that paved the way for a 63-61 Davidson victory.

Ace Baldwin was the Rams' primary disruptor as he totaled five steals, leading a defense that forced 17 turnovers, which matched Davidson's season high. However, Baldwin also missed four shots in the final five minutes, including two rushed tries in the last four seconds.

Baldwin recovered on Saturday, making several key plays in the second half as VCU pulled away late for a 70-54 win over visiting Saint Joseph's. Vince Williams Jr. had 21 points and seven rebounds while Baldwin delivered one of his typical stat-book stuffing games with 11 points, seven steals, six assists and five rebounds. However, he did commit eight turnovers.

"Ace is really smart," VCU coach Mike Rhoades said. "He knew what happened last game down the stretch. We saw a better Ace today. He looked like a point guard today who was in charge of the clock."

--Field Level Media

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