Wildcat Hoops Looks Ahead to Postseason

Drew Eastland-

Davidson’s leading scorer, Justine Lyon ‘19, has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, and is averaging over 15 points per game. Photo by Sam Thomas

For the Women’s Basketball team, this season has been about more than the game. On January 22nd, it was announced that sophomore Andrea Robinson was diagnosed with leukemia in December. The early prognosis is positive, according to Head Coach Gayle Coats Fulks, and Robinson has made the best of her situation. “She has maintained such a positive outlook and has a big smile every time we’ve seen her,” Fulks said. Robinson played a large role on the team before her diagnosis. She started six games and posted double figures in scoring twice.

Robinson’s game advice to the team was always to “get buckets.” That is exactly what the team did. In a tight contest the Wildcats battled through emotion and defeated the 49ers 68-66. Davidson trailed in the final minute until freshman Katie Turner nailed a go-ahead three pointer with seconds to spare. Senior Mackenzie Latt said, “[Robinson] brought us together in a way that nothing else can; her fight has really inspired us to see [beyond basketball]. She may be…away from us, but she is the biggest part of our team, and the driving force behind Davidson’s women’s basketball.”

Coach Coats Fulks has been instrumental to the team’s improvement in her first year with the program and has embraced the Davidson community. Players say the transition has been smooth, and the staff has raised the level of expectations. Off the court, meanwhile, Coats Fulks and her family donated $1 for each student that attended last Wednesday’s game to help pay for Robinson’s medical expenses. The Wildcats won the contest in a double overtime thriller.

On the court, “[the coaching transition has been] a lot smoother than I anticipated, but the team was very receptive of the new staff, and the staff in turn was very receptive of us,” junior Justine Lyon said. “The coaching staff demands a high level of competitiveness and work ethic from us,” Lyon continued. Coats Fulks echoed that the players have been tuned in from the get-go. Her goals are simple: build the program to championship caliber, and show integrity, effort, and unity.

“The next step for us as a program is understanding we have everything it takes to win every single game on our schedule,” Coats Fulks  said. “I want us to make sure we are a united team and people of integrity. I truly believe that you get everything you put in back out, so I want to make sure we are investing the right way moving forward.”

The team has also turned towards a lot of young talent this season. Five freshmen and two sophomores have all contributed significant minutes. “Having the freshman come in, they bring a lot of intensity, a lot of toughness, a lot of competitiveness, and a lot of fight with them, and a lot of energy that we feed off,” Lyon said. “Our freshman class has been a game changer for us.”

The team’s confidence is high as they are .500 in the wide-open Atlantic 10. They also recently secured a quality road win against St. Bonaventure. “The unique thing about the A-10 is that it is a fight every night regardless of who is playing,” Lyon said. “We’ve definitely been competing with some of the best teams in our conference.”

The men’s basketball team, meanwhile, has had a few too many disappointing losses in non-conference play, and two shocking defeats against Richmond. Fortunately, the Wildcats rallied to put together a five game win-streak before falling at Dayton on January 23rd. “We were knocked to the mat at Richmond,” head coach Bob McKillop said. “We’ve gotten up and been fighting ever since.” The game against Richmond capped off a skid where the ‘Cats had dropped four of five games. However, the team quickly bounced back with a big win against Saint Louis sparking a five-game run, including a big home win over talented St. Bonaventure.

Despite inconsistent results, the team have had one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the nation. “[The secret is] unselfish guys who have great court vision and are willing to share the ball to find the next open guy,” said senior Peyton Aldridge. “It also shows that we have guys on the team who can make plays and…shots.”

“We are really confident. Realistically we are trying to win the A-10 regular season,” said sophomore Kishawn Pritchett. “We are trying to knock off Rhode Island, beat VCU, and other top teams in the A-10.” The current senior class was part of the team that received Davidson’s first at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and are hoping to make some postseason noise. “We probably need to win-out for an at-large, but we really need to win the conference championship to be safe,” Aldridge said. “We want to be playing our best ball when that comes around,” Aldridge continued.

Coach McKillop, meanwhile, is focused on the daily goal of getting better and building a solid foundation. “We don’t think so much in terms of goals, number of wins, or position in the conference,” McKillop said. “We have an objective every time we step on the court to get better, to play to win, to fight to win every possession, and to have fun doing it.” Sophomore Jon Axel Gudmundsson echoed Coach McKillop’s goals. “The expectations are getting better every day,” Gudmundsson said. “You can lose against anyone if you don’t go out and play hard.”

Over Christmas break, the team traveled to Hawaii for a tournament. The trip led to the team embracing successful changes on defense, which marked a shift from man-to-man to a matchup-zone. Additionally, the team seemed to turn to Pritchett as their primary ball handler allowing break-out freshman Kellan Grady to operate off the ball and exploit defenses with his unique scoring ability. “Coach likes when I have the ball in my hands because I love to facilitate and distribute,” Pritchett said. “It takes a lot of pressure off [Grady].”

Coach McKillop is excited for the tail end of the season. He noted, “things that were not happening in November and December are now happening. Guys are building habits, guys are developing habits, and because they’re becoming habits they’re just doing it instinctively. Life is filled with mistakes, but one mistake we can’t make is to have doubt.”

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