The ‘Cats made the trek south to Charleston this past weekend, with the chance to tangle with some quality competition. While the start was not ideal, the ‘Cats turned things around quickly and finished with a 2-1 showing. Last week, we noted that this result would look great on the ‘Cats’ resume; Davidson now has the best record (5-1) thus far in the A10. We’ll discuss the A10 as a whole later, but for now, let’s dive into the ‘Cats’ results!
vs. College of Charleston
Final – Davidson 66, Charleston 89
This game was one where the ‘Cats, like a couple other teams in the tournament, were blitzed by Charleston’s hot shooting on their home floor early. However, this game really only fell out of reach for Davidson in the final 10 minutes. The ‘Cats were on a 17-4 run that cut the Cougars’ lead down to one possession with under 12 minutes to play. From that point on, Charleston went on a 18-2 run of their own for the next 5 minutes that brought the score from 54-51 to 72-53. With seven minutes to go, Davidson lacked the time to mount a serious threat. Sam Mennenga led the ‘Cats in both scoring and rebounding, with a line of 19/8/2 (PTS/RB/AST).
Stats of Note
The ‘Cats main issue in this game was not inefficiency but lost possessions. Charleston took 72 shots to Davidson’s 51, despite the two teams putting up similar efficiency from the floor: Davidson was 43.1% from the field and 36.4% from deep, whereas Charleston was 45.8% and 37.5%, respectively. The Cougars hit 12 threes to Davidson’s 4, however, and Davidson only attempted 11 threes in total. Davidson’s three-point attempt rate in the next two games was 43.1% and 37.8%, but against the Cougars, it was a mere 21.6%. Charleston did well to force Davidson to go inside, and their frantic pace made the most of winning the turnover (17-12) and rebounding (42-32) battles. The Cougars went on to win the tournament on their home floor, beating two other 2022 NCAA tournament participants in Colorado State and Virginia Tech. Their KenPom ranking rose from 188th to 126th with this impressive showing.
vs. South Carolina
Final – Davidson 69, South Carolina 60
The ‘Cats played arguably their most complete game of the season against U of SC. Aside from a painful scoring drought to end the first half that saw them trailing by 4 at the break, the ‘Cats lead for most of this game. The fun started when Des Watson came off the bench when Davidson trailed early and quickly erased the 6-point deficit with 9 quick points on 4 consecutive makes. The ‘Cats went on an 18-5 run during this stretch. The decisive run came in the second half, however, when Foster Loyer exploded for 12 points on 4 threes in the midst of a lengthy 28-10 run. Davidson would never trail following the 13:10 mark of the second.
Stats of Note
Davidson held South Carolina’s basketball team to a lower scoring output than their football team the following evening (63). The ‘Cats showed up with a strong defensive performance that resolved many of their issues from the previous game. South Carolina had a meager 43.1 eFG%. G Chico Carter went off, scoring 6 threes, but aside from him, Davidson held the Gamecocks to a mere 29.1% from the field, with no one else even making a three on 12 attempts. Highly touted prospect GG Jackson was kept in check, guarded primarily by Watson, going for only 12 points despite averaging 19.5 in the Gamecocks’ other tournament games. For the ‘Cats, the offense really began to click in the second half. They capitalized on the mistakes they forced on defense, with 12 of their 14 points off turnovers coming in the second half. Foster Loyer and Grant Huffman each had 2 steals and drew multiple offensive fouls. Davidson won the turnover battle 16-13. Sam Mennenga played another strong game with 15 points and 6 boards, but Loyer’s eruption in the second half gave him a team-high 18, 16 of which came after the break. Connor Kochera was also in double figures; his contributed 12/3/2 with a good defensive showing against U of SC’s wings. South Carolina ended the tournament 0-3, but any convincing Power 6 win on a neutral floor looks nice on Davidson’s resume. The ‘Cats have now won 3 straight against SEC competition.
vs. Old Dominion
Final – Davidson 66, ODU 61
The ‘Cats finished the tournament 2-1 with a solid performance against ODU. While the ‘Cats didn’t have their smoothest day offensively, they never trailed in this game following 11 minutes to play in the first half. The only serious threat was a 16-6 ODU run early in the second that cut the lead to one, but Davidson quickly stretched it back up to 9 again afterward. The end of the game saw ODU have some success pressing Davidson, but the ‘Cats were composed and kept the game out of reach. Sam Mennega ended the same with a powerful slam dunk to figuratively slam the door shut on the Monarchs.
Stats of Note
Sam Mennenga scored a career-high 23 in this game, capping off an outstanding Charleston Classic run. Foster Loyer also had his best game of the tournament, going for 22/10/3 on 70.3 TS%. David Skogman deserves huge praise as well, playing his best game as a Wildcat thus far with 13 points and a flawless 7-for-7 performance from the FT line. That trio combined for 58 of Davidson’s 66 points. On defense, Sean Logan shined in a productive 8 minutes of action, recording two blocks. His role in the rotation is trending to increase in volume soon. Defensively, the ‘Cats made ODU struggle to the tune of a 41.4 eFG%. The biggest reason this game was within reach for the Monarchs was their proficiency on the offensive glass. They entered as a solid offensive rebounding team, and they ended the game with 22 more FG attempts than the ‘Cats due largely to their 16-7 advantage in offensive boards. As a whole, however, they only edged the ‘Cats by 2 rebounds: 37-35.
Final Thoughts and a Look Ahead
– Sam Mennenga was deservingly named to the all-tournament team! In total, he averaged 19 points and 7 rebounds per game on a very efficient 62.5 TS%.
– Foster Loyer (21.5 PPG) is now 20th in the nation in scoring and 2nd in the A10 behind GW’s James Bishop (23.8 PPG). Hopefully, this section will become a weekly update as Loyer chases the A10 scoring title. Within the conference, he’s also 5th in assists per game (4.7) and 11th in steals, averaging 1.7. He’s also been Davidson’s leading rebounder twice, with two doubles-doubles already on the season.
– Davidson currently has the best winning percentage in the A10 at 5-1. Several other teams have only one loss, but unfortunately for the league, some of those losses have been ugly: Saint Louis struggled against Maryland, Dayton was upset by UNLV, and UMass lost at home against Towson. However, all three of these teams have otherwise looked strong. Frank Martin’s Minutemen of UMass had a particularly great showing, winning the Myrtle Beach Invitational with victories over Colorado, Murray St., and Charlotte. St. Louis finished with a solid 2-1 showing last week with wins over Memphis and Providence.
– Davidson has a quiet Thanksgiving week before the biggest out-of-conference games in Belk this season: a Black Friday showdown against undefeated San Francisco (6-0) before a Tuesday night home game against Charlotte (4-1). The ‘Cats can avenge last year’s loss at the Chase Center against the Dons, who look to be on par with last year’s eventual 10-seeded squad. USF just emerged victorious at the Hall of Fame Classic with wins over Northern Iowa and Wichita State. On KenPom, the Dons rank 87th, while Davidson sits at 120th. They like to play quickly, ranking 22nd in adjusted tempo, so the ‘Cats need to play more to their slower pace (300th currently) and control the defensive glass. Khalil Shabazz leads USF in scoring, assists, and steals with a line of 15.8/5.4/4.0 and 2.6 steals on 62.9 TS%. He’s one of the premier guards in college basketball. Davidson will have the advantage of being at home and well-rested, as USF has played twice already this week and will be making a long trek over the next few days from their tournament in Kansas City, back home, and then to Davidson. The game tips off at 2:00 on ESPN+ in Belk Arena Friday!