Three keys to beat Davidson

Photo by Xidan Zhang/
Photo by Xidan Zhang/ [email protected]

Buzz Williams didn’t know much about Davidson Sunday when it was announced his Marquette team would be playing the Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

After scouting the Wildcats more over the past few days, Williams said his team is in for a big test this afternoon.

”They’re not a 14 seed,” Williams said. “I’m not smart enough to be on the selection committee, but they’re not a 14.”

Davidson enters the tournament on a 17-game winning streak, the longest in the country. To end that streak, there are a few things Marquette needs to do and some to avoid.

1. Keep Davidson away from the free-throw line, avoid foul trouble

The Wildcats are the best free throw shooting team in the country. As a team, it is 80.1 percent from the charity stripe. To put that into perspective, Marquette is a respectable 72.3 percent from the line and is 81st in the country.

Davidson has eight players who average double-digit minutes, and all of them shoot at least 71 percent on their free throws. Davidson shoots 20.7 free throws per game, which is a respectable mark in college basketball.

Marquette will have to stay out of foul trouble. The Golden Eagles saw big men Chris Otule and Davante Gardner both pick up two first-half fouls against Notre Dame and subsequently struggled for the rest of the contest.

2. Davidson doesn’t usually force turnovers, so keep it that way

Head coach Bob McKillop’s team does not turn the ball over very often. It only commits a turnover on 17 percent of its possessions, the 23rd-best rate in the country. But it’s 234th in the country in forcing turnovers at 18.9 percent.

Momentum shifts are crucial in the NCAA Tournament, and turnovers are a huge part of them. The Golden Eagles have spent all year focusing their ball control, possession-by-possession. Winning the turnover battle would be a big boost for them.

3. Control Southern League Player of the Year, Davidson’s Jake Cohen

While Marquette’s opponents have two all-conference players, Cohen is the one Marquette will likely have the most trouble with. The 6-foot-10 senior averages 14.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game and can shoot from all over the court. He is a 38.7 percent three-point shooter this year, as well.

De’Mon Brooks averages 13.8 points and 6.2 rebounds but at 6-foot-7 is a slightly easier match-up for Juan Anderson or Jamil Wilson. Cohen’s ability to extend his game to the perimeter could lead to an awkward defensive assignment for Chris Otule or Davante Gardner.

An 82.9 percent shooter from the free-throw line, Cohen can score from anywhere on the court in many different ways. The only other comparable player Marquette has played is Erik Murphy of Florida, but Cohen can create his own shot much better than the Gators’ forward.

In Davidson’s last five games, Cohen has averaged just 22.4 minutes because of foul trouble. In his past two games, Cohen has picked up two first-half fouls, which has limited his minutes. A nice supply of Otule and Gardner in the post offensively could limit the Wildcats’ leading scorer’s minutes and efficiency.