Homecoming Preview: Davidson Wildcats

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Friday, February 12th, 2016 With 0 Comments

Radio: GoMason Digital
Stream: A10 Network

George Mason returns to EagleBank Arena tomorrow at 4 pm to take on the Davidson Wildcats (14-8, 6-5 A10) on Homecoming 2016. The Patriots (8-16, 2-9 A10) will be hoping for good news of Marquise Moore’s injured right ankle, as it’s been a brutal two game stretch without their leading scorer and best perimeter defender. Dave Paulsen’s young team will be looking to snap a two-game losing streak, while the Wildcats have won two in a row, at Duquesne and at home versus La Salle.

Back on January 9th, which is already starting to feel like ancient history, George Mason gave Davidson almost all they could handle in a close game at Belk Arena, trailing by five at the half but taking a nine-point advantage in the second half and leading 71-70 with 3:25 remaining. Missed free throws and turnovers were ultimately their undoing, as the Patriots lost 81-75.

Jack Gibbs led all scorers with 26 points for Davidson, while Jalen Jenkins dominated the paint for 20 points and 9 rebounds. Overall,  Mason out-rebounded the Wildcats 46-29 and outscored them in the paint, 44-30, but could not overcome 12 made three-pointers by their hosts, an 8-14 performance at the charity stripe, or the 13-3 turnover deficit.

In honor of Homecoming 2016, there will be postgame fireworks over the Mason pond following the game.

To learn more about the Wildcats, yesterday I asked Grant Labedz, a future Davidson student and co-owner of A10Talk, to answer some questions.

AK: Just how good is Jack Gibbs (averaging over 25 points and nearly 5 assists per game)? Should he be the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year?

GL: Jack Gibbs is as good as advertised. I think it’s tough to score 40+ points once in a season; Gibbs has now done that 3 times this year. He’s been drawing a lot of parallels to former Davidson star Stephen Curry, and deservedly so. The kid can flat out score from anywhere on the court. He’s got the ability to knock it down from beyond NBA range, so you can’t leave him unguarded. Not to mention that he’s been an excellent passer as well. As only a junior, he’s really coming along as the potential A-10 player of the year. I think he should win the award, but I might be slightly biased.

AK: Brian Sullivan and Peyton Aldridge provide most of the rest of the Wildcat offense, each chipping in over 14 points a game. How would you summarize their strengths and weaknesses?

GL: I think Brian Sullivan really lives or dies by his three point jump shot. He’s shooting 40% this year and made 11-17 in his last two games, but there have been times that he’s really struggled as well. He went just 1-9 earlier this year against Dayton. When he’s on from deep, he can be dangerous, but when he’s not making his shots, the Wildcats can run into some problems.

Peyton Aldridge has really come along as a complete player in my opinion. I always like to think of him as Robin to Jack Gibbs’ Batman. He had a career-high 34 points earlier this season against Richmond, so we know that he can score at a high-level. He’s such a nightmare to defend because he can play inside and outside. He always crashes the boards as well. If Gibbs isn’t the one getting the job done, it’s probably Peyton Aldridge.

AK: Who are the role players for whom Mason fans should be watching? What are some of the surprises we might see off the bench on Saturday?

GL: Jordan Watkins and Jordan Barham are both players that can get going and put up a lot of points in a hurry. I’m guessing most Mason fans have heard their names before, but they may not have heard of Rusty Reigel. Though he hasn’t played a lot this season, he’s starting to see a lot more court time, and he’s proving to be a solid scoring weapon that Davidson can utilize. He has 17 points and 9 assists in his last two games. He’s the Wildcats’ secret weapon, and just like every other player on the team, he can knock down the three pointer.

AK: George Mason almost beat Davidson in North Carolina last month, and dominated the glass, 46-29, even though Shevon Thompson had an off game. Do you expect Bob McKillop to make any significant adjustments this time around?

GL: If it wasn’t for Davidson’s three point shooting the last time these two teams met, I don’t think the Wildcats would’ve pulled that one out. George Mason is definitely a better rebounding team than Davidson. I really don’t expect Davidson to get many offensive boards this time around either. The Wildcats rank 309th in the nation in offensive rebound percentage while the Patriots rank 5th in the nation in defensive rebound percentage. I do expect Bob McKillop to try to play a bigger lineup against George Mason. Nathan Ekwu, one of the team’s best rebounders, only played 16 minutes last time out. I’d expect him to see a lot more time on the court against a team like George Mason.

AK: Back in November, Davidson opened the Vance Athletic Center, which includes dedicated practice space, locker rooms, and other spaces for men’s and women’s basketball. How important are dedicated practice facilities to remaining competitive in the Atlantic 10, given the current “arms race” in college athletics?

GL: Practice facilities are undoubtedly crucial to the success of a program. I used to cover Big Ten Basketball over on SB Nation, and I remember hearing about Nebraska’s coach Tim Miles locking the team locker room doors in order to prevent his players from using the facilities for leisure. This incentive made them work harder and improve their effort levels on the court. I think the players and coaches love these establishments for time on and off the basketball court. Whether it’s working through a tough practice or relaxing in the locker room before a game, it’s pivotal to helping a player work on both his mental and physical game.

AK: Do you have a favorite story about Bob McKillop?

GL: I’m sure I’ll hear more when I step foot on campus next fall, but I do remember hearing one that I found kind of amusing. I watched an interview that Bob McKillop and Stephen Curry both participated in. They were recalling Curry’s first practice as a Davidson Wildcat and how he had showed up at least 30-40 minutes late. Stephen Curry jumped into the practice and started working with the team like his poor punctuality was no big deal. Coach McKillop stopped practice, looked at him, and basically told him to get the heck out. I’m sure he didn’t know what Steph would end up doing at Davidson and in the NBA, but hey, rules are rules.

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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