Look over the schedule for Daemen basketball and it reads like, well, a crazy travel itinerary.
Both the men’s and women’s teams have played all over the map this season, grabbing games wherever they could. They played in Indiana and Ohio. Traveled to Florida, West Virginia and Maine. They had just 12 home games all season and only one after the first of the year.
They knew they’d take some scheduling lumps this season. It’s part of the transition for Daemen’s athletic department into the NCAA Division II fold. This year, known as Candidacy Year 1, means the Wildcats are playing without a league. They joined the United States Collegiate Athletic Conference (USCAA), a small national organization of colleges, in order to give their student-athletes post-season opportunities.
The bottom line — the Wildcats just keep winning.
The women are wrapping up their 11th straight 20-win season. With a 20-6 mark they are ranked No. 1 in the nation in the USCAA coaches’ poll.
The men are ranked third with a 22-5 mark.
Oh, and for the record, Daemen won three national titles in the USCAA in the fall — men’s golf, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball.
For all the chaos of transition, the Wildcats are doing just fine.
“They were faced with adversity from the word go with the schedule,” Daemen Athletic Director Bill Morris said. “We had to put together a schedule with enough home games to generate some fan interest but we were also at everyone’s disposal and had to go on the road a lot. ... And they’ve done fantastic facing that adversity. They continue to play at a high level no matter who we’re playing.”
The women’s team has a history of success at the NAIA level, advancing to the national tournament multiple times.
Playing as an independent this season hasn’t changed much on the court. Daemen is averaging 75.7 points a game and holding opponents to just 58. Three players are averaging double figures — Monica Kosior (13.5), Chelsea Andorka (12.8) and Sweet Home alum Ellie Allen (12.3). Lindsay Stoddard (Allegany-Limestone) is averaging 5.4 assists. And the assists are an even bigger story. The team is averaging 19.9 assists a game.
“We’re a very balanced team,” Daemen coach Dave Skolen said. “This is one of the most balanced teams I’ve had. We have six players who on any night could be our best player. We’re a team that when we’re playing with a lot of energy, we’re tough to beat. The few times when we didn’t play well it was because we didn’t come with energy. We want to play very fast, even in the half court set, move the ball quickly and push the tempo.”
Pushing the tempo is something the men’s team has excelled at. The Wildcats are averaging 90.6 points a game with five players averaging double figures. Coach Don Silveri said it’s a fun group to watch play, though sometimes the defense isn’t exactly where he’d like it to be.
“We’re sharing the ball really well,” Silveri said. “They just have fun playing with one another. They share the ball and it’s fun to watch. All things considered, sometimes I get a little upset with us defensively, but when you’re averaging 90 points a game, you tend to give up a little more.”
Casey Sheehan leads the Wildcats in scoring (15.3) followed by Gerald Beverly (14.4), Nichols graduate Jim Regan (12.7), Jordan Green (11.5) and Kadeem Johnson (10.2).
Daemen has three regular season games remaining, all on the road, before the beginning of the national USCAA tournament. Next academic year as they enter Candidacy Year 2 for NCAA Division II, the Wildcats will have a conference to play in. The East Coast Conference has accepted Daemen and the Wildcats will play a full conference schedule next season, though they will be ineligible for post-season titles.
But for right now, there are still national championships to play for and both basketball teams will head to Uniontown, Pa., for their postseason tournament Feb. 26-March 2. While the USCAA is small (there are only about 90 schools in the organization) don’t discount the accomplishment or the quality of competition.
“It doesn’t matter what the organization is, what the tournament is,” Morris said. “A national championship is a national championship. You still have to win the games.”
Indoor track honors
Both Buffalo State and the University at Buffalo picked up weekly honors for indoor track and field performances.
Buffalo State senior sprinter Sasha Henry was named SUNYAC Women’s Runner of the Week after winning the 60-meter dash in 7.67 seconds at the Youngstown State Invitational. She knocked off competition from Division I schools to get the win and her time was the second fastest in Division III this season.
Meanwhile UB shot putter Jonathan Jones (Portville) was named the Mid-American Conference Men’s Field Athlete of the Week. He finished second in the shot put at the SPIRE Midwest Open. His throw of 60 feet 8.5 inches was the 12th best in the nation this year. Jones finished second to former UB All-American Rob Golabek, who was competing with the Syracuse Chargers club.
The Bulls men’s and women’s teams combined to win a total of eight events at the SPIRE Midwest Open. There was no team scoring.