GAME NOTES: Settling in for their fifth neutral-site game of the young season, the Davidson Wildcats clash with the Niagara Purple Eagles at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo today.
Davidson, which has a total of four wins to this point, is currently enjoying a three-game win streak. The team began with an 86-80 victory over Stetson at the end of last month, continued with an 87-78 overtime triumph versus Charlotte last week, and then annihilated Johnson & Wales over the weekend, 105-63 at home.
As for the Purple Eagles, they've already got two Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference games under their belts. The team opened the league slate last week with an 84-71 loss to Siena, extending their losing streak to seven straight, but on Sunday Niagara was able to bounce back with a 61-56 win against Saint Peter's at home. Still, the Purple Eagles have just two wins in 10 tries on the campaign.
In terms of the all-time series between the programs, this game marks the first-ever meeting.
Davidson's romp over Johnson & Wales was almost merciless as the Wildcats doubled-up on the visitors at the break, 52-26, and continued to pile on in the second half of the onslaught. Tyler Kalinoski emerged with a career-high 23 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists for the hosts, followed by Tom Droney with 18 points and six dishes. Before fouling out, Brian Sullivan accounted for 17 points, while Jordan Barham chipped in 11 points and seven boards in just 17 minutes off the bench as the team finished with an impressive 58.7 percent shooting from the floor and 24 forced turnovers.
Davidson has had a different leading scorer in each of the last six games, which is either a good model for balanced scoring, or shows a lack of consistency. De'Mon Brooks is listed as the overall scoring leader with 16.8 ppg, as well as the leader on the glass (6.4 rpg), but he has been out of action for the last two weeks with a sprained left knee. Sullivan steps in with 13.6 ppg, but in his case he is shooting only 38.4 percent from the floor. Defensively, Davidson is permitting opponents to score 81.0 ppg on the strength of 51.4 percent shooting from the field.
Suffering from a lengthy losing streak, the Purple Eagles appeared to again be on their way to another defeat as they fell behind by 13 points to Saint Peter's, shooting a woeful 22.2 percent from the floor in the first half. However, Niagara responded with 58.6 percent accuracy in the second half in order to pull out the win. Antoine Mason saved the day for the hosts as he produced 35 of the team's 61 points, shooting 13-of-24 from the floor, while RayVon Harris accounted for 10 points and a team-best eight rebounds.
As of Sunday, Mason was listed as the top scorer in the nation with his 29.4 ppg, a full four points per game ahead of his closest competition. Mason is shooting just 26.3 percent behind the 3-point line and a modest 46.0 percent from the floor overall, but it is at the free-throw line where he has been such a force. In fact, Mason (93-of-122) has more points at the charity stripe than any of his teammates has overall, which might be why Niagara has struggled so much in the early going.
Obviously Mason can take over a game for the Purple Eagles, but if he continues to get little or no help from his teammates it might not make any difference how many points he scores.
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