By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News —
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — The Daemen men's basketball team has an expression it likes to use when it comes to standout big man Gerald Beverly, who roams the paint on both ends like a ravenous dog ready for a big meal: let him eat.
On Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the USCAA national invitational tournament, a hungry Beverly enjoyed an all-you-can-eat buffet.
The Wildcats trailed at halftime by a basket after a sluggish start, but Beverly's career-high 40 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks were more than enough to help No. 1-seed Daemen extend its program-best win streak to 14 games with a 95-79 victory over No. 8-seed Concordia.
"That is one of the best individual performances anyone has ever had in all the years that I've coached, without a doubt," said Daemen head coach Don Silveri, referring to Beverly's outing. "Gerald was focused. He made up his mind that he was going to dominate. He's blossomed into such a great player and he just keeps getting better. I've never seen somebody improve so much from their freshman year to their junior year."
Usually a team that gets out of the gates quickly to start a game, Daemen struggled at times against Concordia in the opening half. The Hornets' speed, quickness and size challenged the Wildcats on both ends.
Concordia had 13 second-chance points in the first half off eight offensive rebounds. Luckily for Silveri and the Wildcats, North Tonawanda's Aaron Davis, who scored seven of his 11 points in the first half, provided a spark off the bench to help keep the score close.
"We never lose anything when we put Aaron in the game because he's like a starter," Silveri said. "I think he's going to have a great year next year. I mean, look who he's playing behind. Barring injuries, which he's had to struggle with, I think he's going to be great."
In the second half the Wildcats outplayed the Hornets in every phase. Daemen shot 64 percent from the field, while Concordia only mangaged to shoot it at a 34 percent clip. The Wildcats out-rebounded the Hornets, 29-19, in the final 20 minutes.
"In the first half, we got punched. We came out and gave them life," Beverly said. "We came out down two in the second half and played way better defense. We woke up."
Beverly, who said Daemen is playing with a chip on its shoulders after losing in the championship game of the USCAA tourney last season, was thrilled with the way his team came together to get the victory.
"Whenever my teammates feed me the ball — when I get open looks they seem to find me. Today I feel like I was posting up pretty well and I was finding good positions under the basket," he added.
"I told (Concornia's) coach at halftime that they were the best No. 8 seed I'd ever seen. They played well and we didn't play so well in the first half," Silveri said. "But the guys just made up their minds that they were going to play defense in the second half. They went out, they played defense and got the ball inside. Everything was inside-out and we were able to get out on the fast break in the second half. These guys keep finding ways to win."
Wildcats senior Casey Sheehan finished with 26 points with a pair of 3-pointers, while shooting 56 percent from the field for the game. Sheehan's backcourt partner Mark Coppola posted a game-high nine assists. Sheehan also had six rebounds and five assists, while Uchechi Ogbonna grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats are back in action at 8 p.m. tonight when they face No. 4-seed Washington Adventist in a semifinal matchup.Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete area sports coverage.