By Dan Gardella
Brooklyn – After St. Bonaventure took down Rhode Island in the first semifinal, the question turned to “Who would they face Sunday afternoon?”.
The answer would be the St. Louis Billikens. They managed to stifle Davidson in the second half on their way to a 67-44 victory Saturday afternoon.
With both teams getting less than a day to prepare for the game, St. Louis began the afternoon playing with more energy. After surrendering the first three points of the game off of a Luke Frampton three-pointer nearly four minutes in, the Billikens went on a 12-0 run over the next four minutes to take a nine point lead.
Davidson’s offense would begin to wake up after scoring only three points through the first nine minutes of action. Davidson would outscore St. Louis 15-6 to tie the game at 18 with six minutes left in the first half. That run would force St. Louis head coach Travis Ford to call timeout. The run would continue as the conference’s Player of the Year in Jon Axel Gudmundsson would drain a three from the right wing to give Davidson their first lead. Frampton would connect from deep on the next possession to make it 24-18.
D.J. Foreman would snap the run with a basket inside, but Kellan Grady would knock down the Wildcats’ third three-pointer in a row. Davidson would then force a backcourt violation on St. Louis right before the final media timeout of the half.
As the final minutes of the opening half came to a close, the Billikens would go on a 9-0 run to lead by two with just under two seconds to play. However, Jordan Goodwin picked up a technical foul, resulting in two free throws by Gudmundsson to tie the game at 29 going into halftime.
The Billikens opened the second half on a 15-3 scoring run to turn a tie ball game into a double digit lead in the matter of a few minutes. The lead would remain double digits at the half progressed. St. Louis was answering every response Davidson threw at them.
St. Louis would get the lead as high as 16 with 10:14 left in the game. The lead would remain at 15 as time continued to tick down.
The story of the second half would be Davidson’s inability to create any form of consistent offense. The Wildcats only managed to shoot 17% (5-29) and score just 15 points.
“They did everything they had to,” said Davidson head coach Bob McKillop. “They were outstanding by breaking our rhythm. They switched to a 1-3-1 zone. We got a couple of looks but they didn’t fall. When your shots aren’t falling, it makes the zone more difficult because there’s a mental aspect to it.”
The Billikens were led by Javon Bess, who scored 24 points while shooting 10-14 from the field.
Davidson was led by Gudmundsson who scored 15 points on just 4-10 shooting. The Wildcat leads of Gudmundsson and Grady were held to 7-27 shooting and 22 points combined.
“They have good offensive weapons. If we can hold them below their averages, even if it was by a point, I think that would be good enough,” said Ford. “I think we accomplished that.”
The Billikens will face St. Bonaventure with a trip to the NCAA Tournament on the line. The championship will mark the fourth game in four days for Travis Ford’s team.
“We are playing for a championship. It’s us against them,” said guard Javon Bess
PHOTO: Javon Bess/AP