It’s been a long wait. Four seasons ago Davidson fought all the way to the Elite Eight, their best team in decades. That was a really, really good team, but that team wasn’t good enough to beat the Charlotte 49ers in Halton Arena. Charlotte had a guy on its roster named Leemire Goldwire who went head to head with current Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, and knocked down nine 3-pointers en route to 34 points and a 75-68 Niners victory. On Saturday night, Charlotte (5-2) will host Davidson (5-2 vs. DI) for the first time since the 2007-08 season. All the players that played in that game are no longer here, most Charlotte students don’t know what it’s like when our rivals come to visit, the ones that do only know what last year’s numbing defeat on the road felt like. Defending Halton Arena against a team more known for being the 2008 Cinderella than as our rival to the new blood will go along way towards turning their blood Niner Green.
Davidson comes into the game averaging 75 ppg against its Division I competition. They are poised, experienced and once again likely to control the Southern Conference this season. The key to beating Davidson starts inside, limiting the production of 6’10″center Jake Cohen and 6’7″ power forward De’Mon Brooks. On Tuesday night Vanderbilt forced these guys to get more of their points away from the rim and found themselves in control until the Wildcats found their 3-point shot late in the game. Last month, the Richmond Spiders had no answer to this combo, nor reserve Clint Mann, and found themselves losers by 13 points. Brooks is the Wildcat’s leading scorer at 17.6 PPG at 53.5 FG%, grabbing 7.3 RPG. He likes to bang around inside, but will step outside the paint on occasion, even shooting a couple 3-pointers a game (but only at 26.7%).
Cohen is a long, mildly athletic, center scoring 13.3 PPG at 46.3 FG%. Strength isn’t the best part of Cohen’s game, but he can get up and down the court quickly which might take the breath out of Chris Braswell. Cohen also likes to step outside the paint to shoot and puts up four 3-pointers a game, making them at a rate of 27.3%. These two guys can be scored on, but Brooks might be too big for Javarris Barnett to guard in the post, expect KJ Sherrill to get some minutes in this game to contain Brooks. Getting these two guys in foul trouble early will be very beneficial to us, and Chris Braswell needs to be fed the ball early and often.
Davidson’s backcourt consists of some guys that look a lot like Michael Gerrity. JP Kuhlman(6’4″) and Nik Cochran(6’3″) run the Wildcat back court with Kuhlman scoring 13.6 PPG at 43.6 FG%. Cochran is Davidson’s greatest 3-point threat with a conversion rate of 36.4% from behind the arc, contributing to his 10 PPG, Davidson’s only other deep threat is 6’7″ Chris Czerapowics at 35.7%. These guys don’t make a lot of mistakes with the exception of falling head-over-heels for the 3-ball when they shouldn’t, which every college team has to deal with.
Defensively the backcourt is the weakness of Davidson. They lack quickness and play a zone to protect from penetration. The backcourt was scorched by Richmond’s combo of Cecrick Lindsay and freshman Kendall Anthony (very similar player to Deuce Briscoe, take note) for 17 points each. Vanderbilt’s John Jenkins and Jeffrey Taylor combined for 52 of the Commodore’s 87 points Wednesday night. If Briscoe can attack like he did against (sigh) ETSU and East Carolina, he can do a lot to secure a 49ers victory. Mayfield will also need to beat his defender off the dribble forcing the inside defense to help, E. Victor Nickerson has the chance for a breakout game if he can take advantage of Davidson’s perimeter.
Charlotte will have to keep Davidson from finding their shot outside the arc, as well as limiting production inside by their big men. As it has always been since we lost DiJuan Harris, limiting the turnovers will be very important. This experienced and intelligent Davidson squad won’t match our mistakes like Radford or Central Michigan if we decide to get careless. Pierria Henry can use his athleticism and courage to force some Davidson mistakes (his steal rate is astonishing for a freshman).
This will be an emotionally charged game on both sides, but not as much as used to be as the two-season break may have turned down the flames some, especially for players who had never participated in a Hornets Nest Game until last season. The Niners have been making gains all season, playing their best game last week at East Carolina. Tuesday was a good defensive effort but we were anemic offensively. If Charlotte continues its progression against Davidson on Saturday, a 7-0 mark inside of Halton Arena and a 27-11 record overall against the Wildcats will be a lock.