David­son off to best start since join­ing A-10, but VCU will be test

The Charlotte Observer - - Front Page - BY DAVID SCOTT

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David­son has been one of the At­lantic 10’s top teams since join­ing the con­fer­ence in 2014, win­ning the league’s reg­u­lar sea­son ti­tle in that first sea­son and a league tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship in 2018.

The Wild­cats also have a reg­u­lar-sea­son league record of 47-27 dur­ing those four-plus sea­sons. But David­son (11- 4, 2- 0) has never opened its con­fer­ence sea­son with two con­sec­u­tive vic­to­ries, as they did last week.

The Wild­cats’ hot start will be tested Saturday when they host Vir­ginia Com­mon­wealth (11- 4, 2- 0), one of three other teams who are 2- 0 in the league, along with Saint Louis and Day­ton.

“It’s cer­tainly en­er­giz­ing,” Wild­cats coach Bob McKil­lop said of his team’s start, which in­cludes a 61- 56 vic­tory at Ge­orge Ma­son on Wed­nes­day.

The Wild­cats have got­ten a boost from the re­turn of sopho­more guard Kel­lan Grady, who missed four games with a knee in­jury be­fore re­turn­ing for David­son’s A-10 opener last week against Duquesne. Grady, who av­er­ages 19.0 points, scored 17 points in both vic­to­ries against the Dukes and Pa­tri­ots.

But David­son’s most im­por­tant player con­tin­ues to prob­a­bly be ju­nior guard Jon Axel Gud­munds­son, who had an­other of his stat-stuff­ing games against Ge­orge Ma­son, scor­ing 13 points to go with eight re­bounds, five as­sists and five steals. Gud­munds­son ranks fifth in the A-10 in scor­ing (17.1) and as­sists (4.7), sixth in free-throw per­cent­age (85.0), eighth in as­sist-turnover ra­tio (1.8), all the while av­er­ag­ing 35.5 min­utes per game (eighth in the league).

“He’s re­ally po­si­tion­less,” McKil­lop said of Gud­munds­son, a 6-foot- 5 na­tive of Iceland. “He plays with so much en­ergy. You want Jon Axel on your team to play what­ever role you need.”

VCU, which over­came an 18-point deficit to beat La Salle 69- 63 Wed­nes­day, doesn’t play the “Havoc” de­fense made fa­mous by for­mer coach Shaka Smart, who’s now at Texas.

But, un­der se­cond-year coach Mike Rhoades, the Rams are still a dan­ger­ous de­fen­sive club, lead­ing the A-10 in de­fen­sive field­goal per­cent­age (37.4, also seventh na­tion­ally) and 3-point de­fen­sive field­goal per­cent­age (26.6, fourth na­tion­ally).

The Wild­cats have plenty of long-range shoot­ing op­tions, es­pe­cially in Gud­munds­son, Grady, ju­nior KiShawn Pritch­ett and red­shirt fresh­man Luke Framp­ton, who leads the league in made 3-point­ers (41).

“It’s clear by their num­bers, the shoot­ing per­cent­ages they force, we are go­ing to have to be tremen­dously poised, ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive with our cuts, catches and passes,” McKil­lop said.

TIM COWIE -David­sonPho­tos.com

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