With J.P. Kuhlman sidelined with an ankle injury and preseason Southern Conference Player of the Year Jake Cohen picking up two fouls in the first seven minutes of the game, Davidson needed someone to step up in their Old Spice Classic semifinal game against West Virginia.
Junior guard Chris Czerapowicz did just that for the Wildcats, as he tallied 15 points and nine rebounds to help lead Davidson to the 63-60 victory. Davidson advances to Sunday’s title game, where they will play either No. 17 Gonzaga or Oklahoma.
Cohen, who played just 13 minutes due to foul trouble, finished with 11 points and reigning SoCon Player of the Year De’Mon Brooks scored 12 points and racked up five steals.
Juwan Staten led West Virginia with 15 points, but his attempt to tie the game in the final seconds rattled off the rim in the final seconds. Gary Browne scored 11 points off the bench and Deniz Kilicli added ten points and 11 rebounds.
Like Davidson’s Cohen, West Virginia forward Aaric Murray was saddled with foul trouble for much of his time on the floor and finished with six points and eight rebounds before fouling out.
This is a good win for the Wildcats from a “resume-building” standpoint, but the biggest aspect of the victory was the fact that Bob McKillop’s team held on to win despite the absence of Kuhlman and Cohen’s foul trouble.
Czerapowicz, who averaged 10.1 points per game last season, was a major reason for that and his three-pointer with 54 seconds remaining gave Davidson a 61-57 lead just when it looked as if West Virginia had the Wildcats on the ropes.
Brooks and Cohen may have found a way to reach double figures, but if not for the 6-7 Czerapowicz Davidson would likely be preparing for the third place game instead of the final.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.