CHARLESTON, S.C. — Davidson head coach Bob McKillop hadn’t felt his back against the wall very often in his quarter-century with the Wildcats.
When it is, however, his players usually respond like they did Thursday night at the Charleston Classic in a 94-82 victory over Georgia. The Wildcats hadn’t opened 0-3 since 2009-10, the last time they came to the TD Arena for the eight-team tournament. And while that group left the building without a victory, De’Mon Brooks, Brian Sullivan and the Wildcats would not repeat the same mistakes.
“Backs were against the wall and to respond like this against a very talented Southeastern Conference team was very encouraging for me,” McKillop said.
Brooks scored 21 points and Sullivan 20 to end Davidson’s winless start. The Wildcats (1-3) used a 13-4 run at the end of the opening period to take a 46-36 lead into the half. Georgia never got closer than eight points the rest of the way as it dropped a second straight game after losing to rival Georgia Tech last Friday night.
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McKillop was concerned coming in that Georgia’s athleticism might let it break on top early and force the Wildcats to scratch back instead of playing their game. But McKillop said everyone who got in was able to contribute.
Davidson had four players in double figures and all but two of the nine who played had at least two baskets.
“A big key for us tonight was the nine, 10 guys who played and the energy level was good because of that,” McKillop said. “And as a result the distribution of points was equal.”
Davidson has advanced to the past two NCAA tournaments as Southern Conference champion. Yet, it hadn’t broken through for a win before now in a difficult early schedule.
Nemanja Djurisic had 19 points lead Georgia.
Brooks was 13-of-16 from the foul line and added a team-high eight rebounds. Sullivan had three of Davidson’s eight 3-pointers.
Jordan Barham finished with a career high 18 points for the Wildcats, making seven of eight shots. Jack Gibbs was Davidson’s fourth player in double figures with 13 points.
Georgia head coach Mark Fox said the game got away from his club when it struggled on defense.
“We could not defend them without sending them to the foul line,” he said. “The difference was the free throw numbers at the end of the day.”
Davidson shot 34-of-41 from the foul line. Georgia was 19-of-24.
Djurisic had four of Georgia’s five 3-pointers and tied with Juwan Parker for the team lead with six rebounds. Charles Mann, the Bulldogs top scorer this year, had 18 points; Kenny Gaines had 13 and Cameron Forte 10.
Davidson has plenty of good tournament memories in Charleston, winning four Southern Conference titles at the nearby North Charleston Coliseum in 2002 and three straight from 2007-09. Its time at the Charleston Classic at TD Arena is another matter. When the Wildcats played in this eight-team event in 2009, they lost all three games as part of the only 0-4 start in coach Bob McKillop’s 25 years.
And even with Davidson ending its long association with the Southern Conference — it’s off to the Atlantic 10 Conference next season — McKillop and the Wildcats put on stellar show against the Bulldogs of the SEC.
Georgia shot 50 percent (14-of-28) in first half and outrebounded Davidson 17 to 14. But they had nine turnovers that led to seven points by the Wildcats.