GAME NOTES: The new year tips off with a couple of former Southern Conference rivals getting together in North Carolina, as the Davidson Wildcats host the Cougars from the College of Charleston.
Playing at home for just the fourth time this season, the Wildcats are currently struggling with a four-game slide. The last two outings were against a pair of nationally-ranked programs in North Carolina and Wichita State, with the Wildcats dropping the former in overtime by a score of 97-85, and then falling in an 81-70 final in the latter this past Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Cougars have been largely inconsistent on the campaign, winning consecutive games just once over a span of 13 outings. The defensive-minded program held a third opponent in the last six games to less than 50 points as they trampled The Citadel three days ago, 72-48.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, Davidson holds an overwhelming 53-14 advantage in a relationship that dates back to 1927. The Wildcats have won three in a row, including a 74-55 decision during the Southern Conference Tournament final last season.
Charleston scored the first points of the game against The Citadel and never looked back, limiting the host to only 30.2 percent shooting from the floor and 3-of-15 behind the 3-point line. On offense, Willis Hall led the way for the Cougars with 18 points and 13 rebounds, both of which were game highs as the visitors easily won the rebounding battle, 54-42. Anthony Stitt accounted for 14 points, seven boards and seven assists, while Nori Johnson and Adjehi Baru chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively, the latter also collecting eight rebounds.
The leading scorer in four straight games for Charleston, Hall is now at the top of the list overall with his 10.4 ppg, but only fractions of a point ahead of Baru (10.2 ppg) and Canyon Barry (10.1 ppg). Hall, one of the better perimeter shooters with his 39.5 percent accuracy (15-of-38), is also the top man on the glass with 8.3 rpg, followed by Baru with 7.7 rpg. As a team, the Cougars are beating opponents on the glass by almost five per game, but in terms of points they are experiencing a minus-0.5 in scoring margin as they generate just 62.3 ppg.
Outscored at the free-throw line, 28-11, and turning the ball over 15 times was more than enough to keep the Wildcats from competing for a full 40 minutes against nationally-ranked Wichita State over the weekend. Tyler Kalinoski gave the team some hope with his 17 points, six rebounds and six assists, but he fouled out before the game came to a conclusion. Tom Droney pitched in with 12 points, followed by Jake Belford and De'Mon Brooks with 10 points apiece, the latter also pulling down a team-best seven boards before picking up his fifth personal.
Brooks, who has fouled out twice in his seven appearances, leads the team in scoring with 15.3 ppg and is now tied with Kalinoski with just over six caroms per contest. Playing 34 minutes per game, Kalinoski (11.2 ppg) is someone who can do it all when called upon as he paces the program with 45 assists and 17 steals, but he too has dealt with foul trouble in the early going, bowing out of three contests prematurely.
Davidson would like nothing better than to start off the new year right with a victory in front of the hometown fans, but the squad will need to treat nearly every possession with great care given how defensive-minded Charleston can be.
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