Davidson wins the Hornets Nest. What we learned in Charlotte 49ers’ loss to Wildcats

·5 min read

Davidson dominated the Battle for the Hornets Nest, recapturing the trophy for the first time since 2018.

Wildcats junior guard Hyungjung Lee put on his best Steph Curry impression, posting a career night with 32 points on 6-of-11 shooting from 3 in a 75-58 rout of Charlotte.

Bob McKillop’s Wildcats jumped out an early lead, eventually opening an 18-point edge and quieting the Halton Arena crowd with a barrage of 3-pointers.

Charlotte, losers of three straight following a short stint in the Bahamas, has lacked a cohesive defense and fell to 3-3 on the young season. Ron Sanchez’s Pack Line defense started with typical double-teams in the post but was quickly exposed by the Wildcats’ ability to stretch the floor.

“That was the main focus in practice this week,” Sanchez said about perimeter defense. “We wanted to defend the three point line well and obviously we did not. We’ve got to get a lot better guarding one-on-one. That’s not a system thing, that’s a heart thing. As a group we have to be better.”

Davidson extended its win streak to four with the win, shooting 47.9% from the field and 52.4% from beyond the arc.

Charlotte bit into the Wildcats’ lead midway through the second half, but the Wildcats would respond, closing the game on a 15-7 run.

Here are three things we learned from the 49ers’ loss:

Hyunjung LEE’S CAREER NIGHT

Lee exploded for 32 points, scoring 16 in each half. He posted a career-high in rebounds with 14, leading all players in both categories.

The Wildcats averaged 42.3% as a team from 3 coming into the contest but attacked the 49ers’ struggling perimeter defense connecting on 11 threes as a team. Lee was the first Wildcat ever to record a 50-40-90 season in 2020, becoming just the 11th player to achieve the feat since 1992.

He was tabbed as an Atlantic 10 All-Rookie selection in the 2019-20 season. A Youngin City, South Korea native, Lee spent time at the NBA Global Academy in Australia and played for Korea’s U16, U17 and U18 National Teams.

“You’ve got to tip your hat when a player has a game of that caliber. Lee was phenomenal today,” Sanchez said. “When you’re a good shooter, you’ve got to have somebody in your face all night long. We needed somebody to jump into his face all night long, but we’re trying to identify who that defensive stopper is for us.

He leads Davidson (5-2) in scoring and is establishing himself as a potential A10 Player of the Year.

Davidson Head coach Bob McKillop talks to his team between plays during a matchup against the Charlotte 49ers at the Halton Arena on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.
Davidson Head coach Bob McKillop talks to his team between plays during a matchup against the Charlotte 49ers at the Halton Arena on Tuesday, November 30, 2021.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

Aly Khalifa missed nine straight 3-point attempts to start his collegiate career. In Tuesday night’s game, the freshman from Egypt connected on three attempts from beyond the arc, matching Davidson’s perimeter flurry.

“It felt good seeing the ball go through the net again from the three point line,” Khalifa said. “I knew I needed to keep shooting because that’s what shooters do. I knew it would go in eventually.”

The 6-foot-10 center led Charlotte in scoring with 18 on the game. Khalifa, known for his court vision and soft hands, ranks second in assists for the 49ers, averaging 3.6 per game. He recorded just 2 on the night, along with 6 rebounds.

Khalifa made seven of his 11 shots, recording a career-high in makes, 3-pointers and points. While the Wildcats didn’t operate in the pick-and-roll offense often, the big man was exposed on multiple occasions with pick and pop opportunities.

Rim protection was improved for the 49ers, allowing just 20 points in the paint, but the Wildcats poured in 33 points from deep.

Just six games into his collegiate career, it has been a promising start for the freshman. If Khalifa can continue to stretch the floor, he can become a viable third option for Sanchez’ offense.

CANNONBALL

Tabbed as the team’s best defender by Sanchez ahead of the season, Marvin Cannon played just five minutes per game prior to Tuesday night’s matchup.

The 49ers’ perimeter defense faltered in the showing, but Cannon’s on-ball presence was a bright spot in the loss. It started with a two-handed block less than a minute following his entrance off the bench and culminated in a season-high 19 minutes from the senior.

Sanchez was high on Cannon following the loss.

“Marvin has been practicing really hard, and he’s one of those guys who’ve stayed ready,” Sanchez said. “We knew his number would be called at some point. Maybe he can be that guy because of his quickness who can be the defensive stopper for us.”

At 6-5, 170 pounds, Cannon’s physicality and lateral quickness are what set him apart defensively. Sanchez elected not to put him on Lee, though.

He added 9 points and 4 rebounds in the showing, scoring his first points of the season and the most since he was a member of the Washington State Cougars in 2019.

Charlotte’s highlight of the night came on a Cannon steal and slam, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 10 with eight minutes to play. The 49ers would cut Davidson’s lead to nine following the under-eight timeout, but Lee’s performance proved too much.

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