Davidson MBB Weekly Recap: The Matt McKillop Era Begins with a 3-0 Start!

Davidson had an unusually busy first week of the season, with 3 games in total. The ‘Cats now have a daunting test waiting with 3 games in 4 days at the Charleston Classic starting on Thursday, but before breaking down that bracket, let’s take a deeper dive into this week’s results!

vs. Guilford – Monday 11/7

Recap – Davidson 87, Guilford 64

The ‘Cats opened at home against D3 Guilford with 3 new faces in the starting lineup and Matt McKillop in his first game as head coach. Guilford came off a season where they played close games against multiple D1 opponents. Davidson walked away with a 87-64 triumph on the heels of a 30 point game from Foster Loyer. 5 other ‘Cats ended up in double figures on the night in a strong offensive showing. While Davidson started slowly with only 36 points in the first, they exploded for 51 points in the second half to build a large lead.

Stats of Note

With the exception of Sam Mennenga, Davidson was breaking in a completely new rotation in the frontcourt. Both of the new faces stepped up and scored in double figures: freshman Reed Bailey had an efficient 10 points on only 4 shot attempts and started in his first college game, and David Skogman had 12 points of his own. It was a standout showing for the rest of the frontcourt as well; Mennenga recorded a double-double with 11 points and rebounds and freshman Sean Logan contributed 5 points in just 3 minutes of action. Overall, Davidson’s bigs shot an outstanding 5 of 9 from three. Foster Loyer needed only 12 shot attempts to score 30, pouring in 6 threes. That amounted to a scorching 83.3 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) and 89.1 true shooting percentage (TS%).

@ Wright State – Wednesday 11/9

Recap –  Davidson 102, Wright State 97 (2OT)

The Wright State Raiders looked to be a difficult first road test for the new ‘Cats lineup; they have made the NCAA tournament twice in the last 5 seasons, including last year. In the Scott Nagy era, they boast a .672 winning percentage. The test proved stern, as the ‘Cats found themselves in a 21 point hole down 46-25 with 4:06 to play in the first half. It proved to be a tale of two halves (and overtimes), however, as the ‘Cats made some great adjustments to erupt and outscore Wright St. 43-27 in the second. In the first overtime, Davidson rode its momentum to stretch a 7 point lead, but it evaporated as the Raiders forced more free basketball. Davidson retained a tight edge until Loyer hit a dagger three with 0:18 on the clock to put the ‘Cats up 4.

Stats of Note

Foster Loyer deservedly got major hype from the national media for an absolute monster performance that flirted with a triple-double. He not only scored a career-high 38 points on 67.5 TS%, but also led the ‘Cats in rebounds (11) and assists (9). He scored 11 of the ‘Cats’ 13 points in the 2OT period, and played a taxing 48 minutes total. Of course, Davidson’s dramatic comeback was made possible by other all-around great performances. Bailey, Mennenga, and Connor Kochera all had 15-plus-point outings. Des Watson played 31 essential minutes off the bench, contributing 9 points and providing valuable relief when Grant Huffman faced foul trouble. Most importantly, the ‘Cats’ defense completely turned it around in the second half. Wright St. scored 52 in the first but only 27 in the second; despite the Raiders’ hot start, Davidson held them to a middling 48.9 eFG% and outshot them 43.5% to 26.7% from deep.

vs. Vmi – Wednesday 11/9

Recap – Davidson 75, VMI 71

In a flipped script, the ‘Cats built a big lead early against VMI, but faced a more tense second half. However, the result was the same: Davidson walked away victorious for the third time this week. Davidson took the lead with 16:14 remaining in the first and never relinquished it, though VMI cut it to 3 on a couple occasions late. Davidson notably held the Keydets to only 24 points in the first frame. The week’s high workload and fatigue from an extended game Wednesday showed a bit in the second half, but Davidson still emerged with a 75-71 win in Belk.

Stats of Note

Des Watson continued to step up for the ‘Cats, playing his best game of the week with a big 11-point contribution off the bench. He posted a highly efficient 70.9 TS% and was a perfect 4 of 4 from the charity stripe, which proved paramount to Davidson’s edge. Loyer once again led the ‘Cats with 17 points, but he was accompanied by fellow guard Grant Huffman’s excellent play. Huffman scored 15 points of his own, a personal best against D1 competition, and showed great aggression getting to the rim, with a perfect 6/6 performance inside the arc. Davidson’s two starting guards combined for a flawless 9 assists to 0 turnovers.

Statistical Trends, a Look Ahead, and Author’s Final Thoughts

– Davidson secured their first 3-0 start since the 2018-19 campaign!

– Foster Loyer is likely your Player of the Week in the A10. He averaged a line of 28.3/6.3/5.7 (PTS/REB/AST) on a 62.5 eFG% and 69.95 TS%. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who performed as well in the nation with a similar workload. He ranks third in the nation and first in the A10 in PPG.

– The road win over Wright St. was a great early test and should age well on Davidson’s resume. The Raiders, who look like strong contenders to win the Horizon League title again, followed up their home loss with a road upset of Louisville on Saturday. Davidson fans should root hard for Wright St. the rest of the season, as this has an outside chance of turning into a quadrant 2 win for Davidson if the Raiders crack the NCAA Net Rankings’ top 135. For reference, they’re currently 188th overall on KenPom but 124th in Massey’s index.

– Reed Bailey had a very impressive first week in the starting lineup, averaging 10.3 PPG. He shot 12 of 16 from the field and 4 of 6 from range for an outstanding 87.5 eFG%. Look for his volume to increase soon as he settles into Davidson’s offense.

– Last season, Davidson ranked 307th in pace according to KenPom, and the year before the ‘Cats were one of the 5 most patient teams in the country, ranking 353rd. The ‘Cats have pushed the tempo more this season under Matt McKillop, and they’ve already climbed to 246th in adjusted tempo thus far, despite their low preseason ranking. It will be interesting to see if this trend holds and the ‘Cats look to score more quickly after being a very methodical offense the past few seasons. Having two guards experienced at running point should help if Coach McKillop wants to speed up the offense.

– The Charleston Classic will be a huge opportunity for Davidson, despite the challenge. Their first round opponent, tournament hosts College of Charleston, led #1 UNC at the half on Friday but fell in the end, 102-86. They profile similarly to Wright St. in both KenPom’s (186) and Massey’s (118) rankings. With a ranking of 10th in adjusted tempo, expect them to try to push the pace against the ‘Cats. For a good gauge of the ‘Cats’ next test, watch them take on Richmond Monday night at 7. The second round will pit them against either South Carolina, led by first-year coach Lamont Paris, or Colorado State, a team fresh off a 25 win season and NCAA Tournament appearance on the 6 line. Both teams won a pair of close games to start 2-0 this week. Either would make for an exciting matchup, as both fall close to Davidson (111th) on KenPom, with U of SC at 84th and CSU at 107th. 

– The ‘Cats placed third in their previous appearance in the tournament, and another strong 2-1 showing would look great on Davidson’s resume. The ‘Cats tip off against Charleston at 7:30 PM on Thursday on ESPNU!

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