By Ken Cross
Davidson coach Bob McKillop has been able to keep the Wildcats afloat in the middle of the challenge that is the Atlantic 10 despite some tough injuries to post Nathan Ekwu and guard Jordan Watkins. These have limited the Wildcats’ repertoire, but a win streak down the stretch could move them into a potential bye situation at the A-10 Tournament in Pittsburgh next month.
“It was a tough week for us with two challenging games,” said McKillop, “We had some terrific moments, just not enough of them. Both George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth made us pay for every mistake we made whether it was in transition, in half-court, or on the glass. We have got to be clicking on all cylinders to win in this league and we were not.”
The 28-year Davidson coach is wary of upcoming opponent George Washington on Wednesday night and forward Tyler Cavanaugh is a concern for the Wildcats.
“He is tough as nails and is very, very versatile,” commented McKillop on Cavanaugh, who leads George Washington in scoring at 17.1 points per game, “Those are two reasons we recruited him as aggressively as we did. We wanted him very badly when he opted to go to Wake Forest. We hoped we could persuade him come join us when he left Wake Forest. He can beat you inside and out on the glass and at the foul line. Also he can beat you off the bounce and he can do all those things that give you problems as a head coach.”
McKillop, while discussing the Wildcats’ 74-60 loss to VCU last Saturday, also weighed in on the flexibility of VCU big-man Mo Alie-Cox, who at 6-7, 250, is a matchup problem with his physicality and ability to move.
“He presents presence any time the ball gets to the paint so whenever you stretch him out at the three-point line because he has to defend a Payton Aldridge, some how he finds an alertness that he can fulfill his responsibility to guard Payton Aldridge, but still put himself in position to make a block,” analyzed McKillop, “He had a couple of critical blocks on Saturday night.”
Aldridge is similar to Alie-Cox in that he has the versatility to go to the perimeter on offense or defense. The difference is Aldridge’s three-point prowess as he is shooting 41.5 percent from three while being an 85 percent free throw shooter. Aldridge could be seeing even more minutes on the point as he sees the floor impeccably well which is something McKillop feels could be attributed to the fact that he played quarterback in high school in Leavittsburg, Ohio.
“One of the great advantages we have with Peyton is he can handle the point as well as the wing position as well as the front court position and that gives you tremendous versatility,” said McKillop, “We have seen that used against us by many teams as well. I think he has that extra special ability to be a point guard and I think you will see him get minutes as we move through the season as well.”
Patriots Ascend at 17-8
Dave Paulsen is in only his second year at George Mason after a successful run at Bucknell. GMU finished 11-21 a year ago and now the Patriots are in the middle of the A-10 pack. They are led by a pair of seniors in forward Jalen Jenkins and Marquis Moore as well as a talented sophomore scorer in Otis Livingston. Paulsen discussed how George Mason can get even better in sustaining their play inside of games.
“It’s just hard to play great for 40 minutes in a high caliber league with quality opponents,” Paulsen explained of an A-10, that is currently eighth out of the 21 D-1 conferences in RPI, “We are still evolving in terms with maturity. The ability to close out a game and sustain and execution is something that takes some time.”
The Patriots have found ways to win tight games in the league after a pair of close wins over Davidson and Fordham gave them three wins in a row and four out of their last five.
“We have been able to find a way to hang on, come up with a key stop, and make a free throw,” commented Paulsen, “One of the keys in the game at Davidson – we miss a shot and Jalen Jenkins had a big offensive rebound and I think maybe it was a three-point play. Getting the key stop, getting to the free throw line…energy plays like that are things you have to do when you are not clicking on all cylinders.”