Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Scoreless, Pointless

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Loyola

Well, as the wise head coach put it after the game, that was one for the memory banks.

From the very first possession, it was clear that this wasn’t your average day at Belk Arena. Well, maybe not the first possession. That one was, after all, THE shot attempt and miss for the first period.

Loyola’s Isaac Reid grabs the rebound (REBOUND!) and dishes to Jamal Barney, who lays it in, and then... wait... HUH?

“HE’S GOT TWO GUYS ON HIM,” delights stats runner/associate head Wildcat football coach Brett Hayford. “THEY ARE PLAYING MAN TO MAN, AND HE’S GOT TWO GUYS.”

And it worked, briefly, as the Grey Hounds took a 9-4 lead behind four missed baskets and a whole lot of confusion.

But adjustments were made as the youngest McKillop ably took over the point and Will Archambault became the sixth man the ‘Cats needed, connecting with Andrew LOVEdale and scoring five straight points to lift the Wildcats ahead 11-9 and for good.

From there it was all Wildcats, who did a pretty good job answering the one-man-band question, and by the time the 18-0 run (18-0!) ended, the ‘Cats were up 22-9 and this one was good as done.

“They gotta come of it now,” D-Line coach Hayford is insisting. “Have to.”

But alas, Gary’s revenge continues, and in the corner, The Cheese Stands Alone. Well, sort of.

In Monday’s story, I promised a scene-stealer, and boy, did Patsos try, living up to my top billing and proving a writer’s dream.

When finished instructing (loudly) his players at the table on the defensive scheme (TRIANGLE!), he turns to interact with the crowd, explaining, “We’re not as smart as Davidson. We’re working on it.” ... Chatting with a ref about questionable elbows, “I just don’t want a fight. I’m in a peaceful mood.” ... To a player about to enter the game, “Try not to hit the backboard the next time you lob it.”

And so it went.

If you were there, you’re gonna wanna remember this one. “Put it in your memory bank” along with Gonzaga, Greensboro and Elon, but for the most opposite of reasons.

0-3, three fouls.

The rest of the band:
Lovedale: 8-for-14, 20 points, 10 boards.
The WL: 6-for-12 (all treys!), 18 points.
Bond, Aaron Bond: 4-for-5, 11 points, nine minutes.
Will Archambault: 5-for-9, 13 points, four assists.
SteVe: six points, six boards, six assists.

And afterwards, I turned over most of my post-game duties to assistant SID Matt Harris to attend press conferences. Standing in the classroom listening to the Band Leader, there’s a tap on the window, and there’s the Cheese, making faces while waiting his turn.

I’m sure there’s some disappointment — scorers like to score after all — but you wouldn’t know it. In the press conference there is laughter and joking, as he concedes to “not knowing what position” he was playing and having “the best view in Belk Arena tonight.”

And so it went, and in the greatest of dramatic twists, the one seeking the spotlight was upstaged by the one who can’t avoid it.

Without scoring a point.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Second Chances

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Florida Atlantic

The Davidson Wildcats beat the Florida Atlantic Owls 76-60 in the second game of a double-header, or the third round of Dick’s Sporting Good’s NIT Tip-Off, at Belk Arena Friday night. Loyola of Maryland beat James Madison 64-54 in the first game of the day.

With the NIT running this show, things were a little different.

The post-game press conference location was switched to accommodate the media meal, which was served at halftime of the first game. The benches, the scorer’s table and the floor all got logo makeovers. With season ticket holders and staff members needing tickets, familiar faces weren’t occupying their usual seats.

The View from Press Row was, um, different.

From our spot on the scorer’s table, we get pretty acquainted with the opposing bench, and tonight was no exception. Loyola’s head coach Jimmy Patsos is one whose reputation proceeds him, and I was told several times over that I was going to enjoy him.

Working a neutral-site game can be difficult, but Patsos’ personality – that doesn’t even begin to do it justice – made focusing on the game at hand even less intriguing. I really just wanted to watch him.

He’s shouting (REBOUND!) and jumping and spitting and running and switching from enthusiasm to disgust as quickly as you can say rebound (!).

He told one of his players to shoot threes like rainbows. Without cracking a smile.

Simply saying, this guy is worth the price of admission and could challenge The Shining Star for the crowd’s attention tomorrow night.

When he left the court, I hope it was for a nap.

By the time the Wildcats hit the floor, things started to feel normal again. Kevin was back on P.A., the WL welcomed the ‘Cats to the jungle, the D-block was in living color and Davidson was off to a quick start with back-to-back treys.

The shooting was just so-so, according to, you know, my ridiculous standards, but the rebounding (REBOUND!) was impressive.

After a FAU jumper cut it to 17-12, Big Ben Allison misses a three-pointer try but MAX grabs the board. Two more ‘Cats take shots that won’t go with Will Archambault pulling down rebounds in between before The Star (Folks, we got a star!) buries it from deep to push the lead back to eight at the second media timeout. He points to thank the passer. (Always thank the passer. And remember the little people.)

It was a possession – extended three times over - that was typical of the evening.

The ‘Cats finished with a 49-38 rebounding edge, including doubling the Owls on the offensive boards, 20-10. Playing large and in charge, Andrew LOVEdale and SteVe Rossiter had 15 and 12 rebounds, respectively.

In the game, offensive rebounds equal second chances.

In the fourth round of the NIT Tip-off, you get a seecond chance to catch a double header. See Patsos.

For the Wildcats, still chasing the perfect game, it’s a second chance to fine-tune theirs.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Tale of Two Halves

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball at Winthrop

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness. It was the epic of belief. It was the epic of incredulity.

OK maybe it wasn’t quite so dramatic.

I first read “A Tale of Two Cities” in the ninth grade, and to be honest, didn’t get it at all. Even now, some of its essence is probably lost on me, but for some reason, it popped into my head when I thought of how best to describe the men’s basketball team’s 97-70 win over the Winthrop Eagles Friday night at Belk Arena.

It was, in the simplest of descriptions, a tale of two halves.

Because I spent the greater part of the day traveling to and fro the SoCon volleyball tournament, I didn’t get to spend the usual part of my day breaking down the night’s matchup, studying box scores, watching film ... er, making ridiculous predictions. From what I did gather, though, predictions were heavily in favor of the experienced Davidson Wildcats, hosting the inexperienced Winthrop Eagles.

The first half, though, didn’t exactly play out that way, with the score tied four times and the lead – held by the Eagles for more than a simple stretch – changing hands five times. The Eagles’ Cameron Stanley put up 13 points, and kept Winthrop in the game, 41-35 heading into the second half.

Andrew LOVEdale, though, was having none of it, putting up huuuuuge numbers of his own.

16 points, 11 rebounds in the first half on 7-of-9 shooting.

He was playing so huge that in the second half, he collected a faux rebound on the second of three free throws, and he smiled about it. He finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds and connected at least three times on rockets from Will Archambault, who had a massive game with 12 points, six rebounds and five (!) assists.

LOVEdale wasn’t the only Wildcat putting together a nice half, but most of the others did so in the second. When it was all said and done, five ‘Cats were in double-figures, led by 30 points and 13 assists from America’s Sweetheart.

Converted forevermore, SteVe Rossiter put up 13 – including a perfect 3-of-3 from the line (sigh, free throws), and Bryant Barr, known forevermore as “the white lobster” finished with 11. I’m not sure where this nickname originated, but I know that a) I like it, b) it’s complete with a hand signal, and c) that kid in the student section in the white lobster costume tonight = awesome.

“That’s probably the most awesome costume ever,” director of basketball operations “TI” said afterwards. Or something very similar, I’m sure.

“Did you see my mascot?” the actual white lobster asked. With a smile.

In her first night on press row, SID assistant Alex was enjoying her new view. “You can hear everything,” she tells me, amazed(ish), before observing the students. “What is that flag... and why is that guy dressed like a ... shrimp?”

I filled her in, and she seemed to like what I was putting down. A few other things I took away from this evening: If I had three wishes, I would wish that 1. No one would ever use the ‘airball’ chant again. Ever. 2. Fans who choose to scream only at the referees about ‘double-dribbling’ and ‘hand checking’ and ‘charging’ would never, ever sit near me. Ever. And 3. The Wildcats could play every half like tonight’s second half.

(Correction: (Yes, I’m officially running corrections now.) Kim Murphy sang the national anthem on her 21st birthday at last Friday's game. Kelsey Foremost did the same on Tueday, her 22nd birthday. My apologies to these ladies for mixing them up, a belated happy birthday and job well done to both, and a thanks to Kim for the help...)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Working out the Kinks

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Guilford

The Davidson men’s basketball team officially opened the 2008-09 season (in front of SELLOUT crowd) with a 107-83 win over Guilford (late, late, late) Friday night.

It was a game that didn’t exist on the “tentative” schedule, and one that made for a long day in Davidson athleticville, tacked on to the end of a volleyball match. (I tried to get into my apartment with my work key tonight. What does that mean? Sidebar: I'd very much like to wish a congratulations and happy birthday to the Davidson student who sang the National Anthem AND managed to have her 21st birthday Tuesday AND Friday. If only I had been so smart.)

After Tuesday night’s (shaky?) exhibition win over Lenoir-Rhyne and just before the team’s heavily-anticipated trip to Oklahoma for the first round of the preseason NIT, it became a needed game.

After Tuesday’s night (lackluster?) win, there were some questions swirling. There were kinks exposed; wrinkles that needed to be ironed out.

The trademark defense? A bit pedestrian?

The shooting? Average?

The ball control? Yikes?

And rest assured, the Guilford game wasn’t perfect, but you gotta feel a lot better about life with one of these in your pocket for a rainy day or a trip to Oklahoma, no?

The defense? Stifling. The Quakers went home with 39 turnovers. 39! The ‘Cats scored 55 points off of those turnovers and posted 25 (25!) steals.

The shooting? I think you’d be safe to say the new arch won’t negatively affect certain Wildcats, as four reliable Davidson shooters finished with at least a pair of treys.

And oh, the ball control... The good guys’ assist to turnover ratio: 18-14. The others: 13-39.

And yet, one particular line rises above the rest: 29 points, 10 assists, 1 (1!) turnover, and 9 steals. Three rebounds and a block on 9-for-20 shooting. Only one Wildcat has ever recorded a triple-double, so you can be sure I lobbied that He be put back in to get it. (But, come’on. He’s So Close. Puuuuh-lease.)

But, Friday night wasn’t about triple-doubles. Friday night was about working out the kinks. And from the malfunctioning shot clock to our malfunctioning printer on press row, there were plenty of kinks. Eventually, we got the clock back on and the printer back in action.

And some of those stat lines suggest the other kinks are working themselves out, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Practice? You're Talking About Practice?

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Lenoir-Rhyne

After the women’s team opened their 2008-09 season with an exhibition win over Mars Hill on Sunday afternoon, the 20th-ranked men’s team did the same, getting an 87-54 exhibition win over Lenoir Rhyne Tuesday night at Belk Arena. Which means, both teams have played an exhibition. Which means, play time is over. Which means, basketball season is officially upon us.

Plenty of people asked me if I was going to resurrect this blog again. A few were sincere; a few I’m pretty confident were making fun of me, but nonetheless I am back, because well, I’m as superstitious as the rest of them, (except for maybe athletic trainer Ray Beltz.) And well, I wrote about last season, and that seemed to go pretty well.

It is because of last season that the excitement for this season is um, exciting? You know, you’ve read all the preseason hype. The projections. The expectations. It’s why you came to watch an exhibition. A glorified practice.

When I got to work Tuesday, SID Marc Gignac and statistician extraordinaire Gavin McFarlin are already busy getting the media room set up.

It’s 10 a.m.

You can feel the energy in the air. I abandon my bag and start helping to put chairs around the tables and soon SteVen Rossiter wanders in. He’s mumbling something about an early class getting canceled, but he jumps in to help.

“I was so excited I couldn’t sleep last night,” I tell him. “I took a Nyquil,” he answers back. I think we are both kidding, but you can never be sure.

He goes to class; we go to work(ish).

4 p.m. rolls around.

4-6 p.m. is the dead zone in athletics, when most of the day’s work is done, and you just wait for the evening’s event to come. Finally, it’s game time, and there are a lot of people in the seats to watch a game that really doesn’t matter much.

And that’s what you keep telling yourself as you look up for the better part of the first half and realize this is close. Too close. Closer than the players and coaching staff would like. But ultimately, you remember, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is the learning. The game-time atmosphere. The simulation of real-time situations against players not on your team.

And well, the score, which says we win. And we win big. Not pretty, but handily.

Sure, the coaching staff will have plenty of things to study this week before opening the season, for real, against Guilford at 9 p.m. Friday. But don’t worry; they love that. Imagine an exhibition that was perfect. What would be the point? It’s like decaf coffee.

No, we will all learn. The players will learn what worked and what didn’t. The coaching staff will learn who is ready and who maybe needs a little help.

Even that player who dropped in 41 (41?), but seemed (too) concerned about eight turnovers afterwards. (“Traveling shouldn’t be a turnover.”). He’ll learn something, too.

Exhibitions expose weaknesses and mistakes.

Expectations are because of last year’s success.

Last season, good as it was, is over.

Friday night, practice is over.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's Basketball Season

By Lauren Biggers
Women's Basketball vs. Mars Hill

Officially, basketball season began Oct. 17, 2008, but for most of us, it never really ended.

For coaches, this season began the day after the last one ended. For players, summer meant camps, drills and conditioning. For sports information and marketing, well, we’ve been busy, too. And around town, the excitement is palpable. Even at church this morning, one greeter said to the other, “It’s basketball season at Davidson!” as I walked in.

Sunday afternoon at Belk Arena, it’s officially basketball season again.

While the energy surrounding the 20th-ranked men’s team is off the charts, the old saying “All ships rise with the tide” more than applies to this women’s team, who opened the 2008-09 season with a 75-48 exhibition win over Mars Hill Sunday afternoon at Belk Arena.

And Davidson’s other SoCon Preseason Player of the Year,
Mercedes Robinson, dropped in a mere 20 points and 10 rebounds to ensure it.

The senior from Mansfield, Texas is the top returning scorer for the Wildcats, averaging 12.7 points and 8.4 rebounds a game a season ago. And with all that (decidedly deserved) chatter about the school’s other POY, Mercedes sometimes flies under the radar. (She says in a game of one-on-one she would let Him win, btw.)

But if you don’t make it a point to see her play at least once this season, you lose. Her play is so consistently good you sometimes forget to notice her. “She has 20 points?” Women’s basketball SID Gavin McFarlin, already in mid-season form, calls it a quiet 20.

Mercedes, though, is neither quiet, nor shy. She wonders into the SID office and quickly makes herself at home in the chair.

The point of this story is to introduce you to a player you should know. (She cites The Color Purple as her favorite movie, Erykah Badu as her favorite artist, and Mexican as her favorite type of food. Oh, and she has a job lined up for next year already... running Davidson’s neuro-science lab for a year before going on to medical school.)

“I was honored,” she says of being named SoCon Preseason Player of the Year. “I wasn’t expecting it, so I guess I just got more excited about the season. But there is some added pressure, too.”

The point of an exhibition is to stimulate a regular-season game.

“It lets us get out all the jitters,” she says. “They show us exactly what we need to work on and give us the opportunity to prepare for a real game.”

Mercedes’ play certainly wasn’t the only thing the coaching staff will feel good about after today. Point guard
Alex Thompson added 12 points and six assists, and junior forward Julia Paquette was dominant inside, finishing with 13 points, two blocks and five rebounds. Likewise, the game tape will reveal weaknesses to address as the Wildcats begin working towards topping last year’s third-place finish in the conference.

“Our only expectation is to win a championship,” she says. “That’s the mindset that we have worked with all year. We are young, but I think we definitely have the talent to get it done.”

Mercedes and the women’s team won’t have to wait long to find out. Saturday in a 3 p.m. contest at Winthrop, things get official.

Blog on Davidson Athletics

Welcome to the official blog of the Davidson Wildcats! Take an inside look at the world of college athletics from Davidson players, coaches and staff.

Search This Blog