AMHERST, N.Y. -- The Daemen College men's basketball team is ranked No. 14 in the NCAA Division II Sports Information Directors of America (D2SIDA) national media poll for week seven of the 2018-19 season. It marks the first time in Daemen's NCAA Division II era that it has been nationally-ranked in a top-25 poll conducted during the playing season.
Daemen (11-2, 3-0 ECC) earned 169 points in the poll voting, and their ascent into the national rankings comes a day after they were named the No. 1 ranked team in the D2SIDA East Region media poll. The Wildcats posted a 3-1 record last week, which included wins over the College of Saint Rose (74-55), Saint Anselm College (78-72) and Dallas Baptist University (87-80). Those victories extended Daemen's winning streak to a region-best nine consecutive games, but that streak was snapped Sunday in a road loss to Saint Edward's University, which moved up to No. 6 in this week's national poll.
"We are excited to be the first team in Daemen men's basketball history to be ranked in the Division II top-25," said head coach Mike MacDonald. "It's a true testament to the resiliency of this team to withstand all of the injuries that we have had in order to be in this position. The great thing is that Western New York is really starting to notice how good this group is and how much fun they are to watch."
The Wildcats' signature win of the season came last Wednesday against previously unbeaten Saint Anselm. The meeting, which was billed as the regional "Game of the Year" by the experts at d2easthoops.org, featured 13 lead changes. Daemen allowed just 72 points, a season-low for the Hawks who entered the game as winners of 10 straight games, and ranked first in the D2SIDA regional poll and fourth in both the D2SIDA and National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) Division II national polls. It marked Daemen's second win against a nationally-ranked opponent in the team's NCAA Division II era. It also extended Daemen's home court winning streak to 11 straight games, and it made the Wildcats the only East Region team without a loss to a regional opponent. Daemen is 8-0 against regional opponents this season, and 93-30 in all regional games since joining the East Coast Conference in 2013-14. Saint Anselm fell to No. 15 in this week's poll following the loss.
Last Friday's neutral site win came against a Dallas Baptist team that was ranked 10th in the D2SIDA South Central Region media poll. Although the Wildcats' two-game trip to Texas ended in defeat, the Wildcats are still an impressive 28-4 since Dec. 31, 2017. Sunday's loss to SEU was the team's first by more than six points in that span.
The Wildcats regained the services of redshirt sophomore center Andrew Sischo (Guilderland, N.Y.) last week. Sischo suffered an injury in a Dec. 16 win at New York Institute of Technology that forced him to miss the next two games, but he returned to the lineup against Saint Anselm and scored 20 points. He went on to record double-doubles against Dallas Baptist (16 points, 14 rebounds) and Saint Edward's (17 points, 10 rebounds) - his seventh and eighth double-doubles of the season. For the season, he's producing team-highs of 20.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 58.4 percent from the field. He ranks second in the league in scoring and field goal percentage, and first in rebounding. The 6-foot-9 Sischo also ranks among the national leaders in rebounding (eighth) and double-doubles (seventh).
The Wildcats have also seen redshirt junior forward Jeff Redband go on a tear of late. The 6-foot-7 sharpshooter shot 69.2 percent from both the field (22-for-35) and three-point range (18-for-26) over the four games last week. Redband has scored at least 20 points in three of the last four games, including a career-high 23 points in the win over Saint Rose. Redband has made at least one three-pointer in 17 consecutive games, and he currently leads the league in three-point field goals (42) and three-point shooting percentage (52.9). He's contributing 15.0 points per game this season, sixth-best in the ECC at present.
Deion Hamilton (Rochester, N.Y.), Breon Harris (Niagara Falls, N.Y.), Jay Sarkis (Rochester, N.Y.) and Quinn Lee Yaw (Jamestown, N.Y.) are also producing for MacDonald's squad. Hamilton matched his career-high with 26 points in the win over Saint Anselm, and is averaging 13.2 points per game with a team-high 37 assists. Harris owns a pair of 20-point games this season, and is contributing 12.5 points per game with a team-high 22 steals. Sarkis missed the majority of November and December, but returned to the lineup recently. He scored a season-high 19 points in the win over Dallas Baptist, and is producing 7.7 points and 3.0 assists per game. Lee Yaw is leading the ECC in field goal percentage (60.5), and giving the team 9.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
With 13 returning players off last season's 22-8 team, expectations were high for MacDonald's club at the season's outset. The Wildcats were picked second in the ECC preseason poll, and 22nd in the Division II Bulletin preseason national poll, while also receiving top-25 votes in both the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and D2SIDA preseason national polls. In addition to their inclusion in this week's D2SIDA national media poll, the Wildcats are receiving votes in the NABC national poll for the second straight week.
"We all realize that we have a long way to go in the season and many tough conference games to play," said MacDonald, who has guided the Wildcats to 92-39 record in his four-plus seasons at the helm. "The thing that excites me as a coach is that I believe this team has the ability to get better. When you step back and realize that we have only had this entire group together for three full games so far this season, we feel like we can improve and grow as guys settle into roles and we develop our rotation going forward."
Daemen will return to conference play this weekend when they host ECC unbeaten Molloy College (Friday, Jan. 11) and Queens College (Sunday, Jan. 13). Friday's meeting with Molloy will be a showdown for first place in the league standings as the Lions come in with a 4-0 league record (8-5 overall). Molloy's last visit to Lumsden Gymnasium resulted in an instant classic; the Wildcats outlasted the Lions 102-98 in double overtime last February.
The D2SIDA national media poll is voted on by sports information professionals from around the country.