Saturday 24th March, 2018
30 ℉ | 48 ℉Providence

Davidson has three chances vs. Kentucky

Sports Xchange - Wednesday 14th March, 2018

BOISE, Idaho -- Kentucky coach John Calipari is fond of saying that if an opponent makes 15 3-pointers in a game, you tip your hat to that team and move on to the next game.

One problem. There is no next game if Kentucky allows that to happen in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Fifth-seeded Kentucky (24-10) meets No. 12 seed Davidson (21-11) on Thursday in a South Region game at Taco Bell Arena.

Davidson, winners of the Atlantic 10 Tournament, rank No. 10 in the nation in made 3-pointers at 10.7 per game. Davidson is 24th nationally with 27.3 attempts per game and 28th in 3-point accuracy at 39.1 percent.

"My guess is they're going to shoot 30 threes, maybe more," Calipari said. "It's how they play. When you play a team like that, they can move back and back and back. You can't cover them out there and if they're making them, you lose. It's just how it is. It's a dangerous team."

Davidson made 26 3-point baskets to open its season Nov. 10 in a 110-62 rout of Charleston Southern. On Feb. 6, they made 20 in a 91-62 victory over Saint Joseph's.

In winning three games to capture the A-10 Tournament last weekend, the Wildcats made 47.1 percent of its 3-pointers, making an average of 11.

Calipari conveniently ignores one fact. Kentucky ranks fifth in the nation at defending the 3-pointer, holding teams to 29.9 percent.

"To play Davidson in the first round, wow," Calipari said Monday. "Davidson is a good team. They're well coached. They won their tournament, which means they're playing their best right now."

Said Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley, after his club lost to Davidson 58-57 in the A-10 final Sunday: "Whoever is going to draw them is not going to want to see their name next to them."

Senior forward Peyton Aldridge tops Davidson at 21.5 points and 7.8 rebounds and led the team with 76 3-pointers. Freshman guard Kellan Grady averages 18 points and sophomore guard Jon Alex Gudmundsson scores 13 per game.

"From a technical standpoint, he shoots it better than I imagined," Davidson coach Bob McKillop told reporters about Grady. "From an emotional standpoint, he's humble and mature and tenacious as we could want. I never realized the tenacity that he had in terms of his thirst for winning.

"He doesn't have that look, but he's a killer -- just the way he comes to practice, the way he digests film, and believe me our freshmen are hit with a barrage of new information and different vernacular and techniques. He's made some mistakes, but rarely does he make it more than once."

Davidson has its own challenges, however, defending a long Kentucky team that has come into its own with three wins in three days to claim the SEC Tournament title.

Kentucky, which has won 24 of its last 25 NCAA Tournament first-round games, is coming off a 77-72 victory over Tennessee on Sunday. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander topped his MVP weekend with 29 points.

Kentucky's top five scorers are all freshmen, led by Kevin Knox at 15.6 points per game. Next comes Gilgeous-Alexander at 13.9; PJ Washington, 10.6; Hamidou Diallo, 10.0; and Quade Green, 9.6. Sophomore Wenyen Gabriel averages only 6.8, but is coming off his best weekend, hitting 11-of-15 3-pointers to make the all-tournament team.

"It's what we've built for," Calipari said. "It's what we go through the steps of. So, happy for the kids. I'm happy for Wenyen. Happy for Sacha. Quade's playing better. PJ's playing better. They're all playing better."

But will it be enough as Kentucky is paired with Davidson and No. 4 seed Arizona should it advance.

"It's been thrown at us," said Calipari, a vocal critic of the Selection Committee's seeding most years. "'You're not advancing. Everything we can throw in front of you, we are. Have at it!' And what's better than that?"

It all starts with Davidson, which is loose and ready to spring an upset in the Wildcats vs. Wildcats matchup.

"We won and we're going dancin' and I couldn't be happier for my guys and for everybody," Davidson senior guard Rusty Reigel told reporters. "I just can't wait to get there next week."

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