NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP)—Davidson coach Bob McKillop has finally got his team thinking the way he does. And that’s bad, bad news for opponents of the 25th-ranked Wildcats.
McKillop says he’s built his career chasing 40 minutes of perfection every game.
“That’s been as elusive as can be for us, but we’re starting to get there,” McKillop said Sunday.
It’s hard to imagine Davidson playing any better than it has at the Southern Conference tournament. The Wildcats posted their second straight 30-point victory here, defeating UNC Greensboro 82-52 to reach the championship Monday night.
Stephen Curry, the league’s player of the year, scored 26 points as Davidson won its 21st straight game.
The Wildcats (25-6) own the country’s longest win streak and have taken their past 35 games against SoCon opponents, including this year’s 20-0 romp through the regular season. They’ll look for a title three-peat Monday against Elon (14-18), the first sub. 500 team to reach the finals since VMI did it in 1988 at 13-16.
The Keydets wound up losing to Chattanooga. And most expect Elon to suffer the same fate.
Davidson has done its best to follow McKillop’s philosophy, forward Thomas Sander said. The coach preaches working hard each game and practice to improve.
“Hopefully, at the end of the season, we’ll be the best team we’ve been all year,” Sander said. “Tomorrow, we could take another step.”
That’s a solid bet, as long as they have Curry.
The SoCon’s player of the year put on an early show at the North Charleston Coliseum, then saw his teammates dominate every phase of the game.
Curry’s performance pushed the sophomore past 1,500 points for his career.
The Wildcats will try for their fourth tournament crown since 2002 and fifth under McKillop.
If any team in the league could slow down Davidson, it figured to be the Spartans (19-12).
UNC Greensboro was the last team to oust the Wildcats from the conference tournament in 2005 and last month led them by 20 points early.
This time, though, Davidson got things going quickly.
“I guess we didn’t want to get down that deficit again,” Curry said.
The Wildcats hit six of their first eight shots, two of them Curry 3-pointers to lead 13-7.
Mikko Koiovisto’s 3 got the Spartans within 15-13 before Davidson’s relentless attack took over.
Kendall Toney led UNC Greensboro with 12 points.
If it wasn’t Curry swishing outside shots, it was Boris Meno going 4-of-4 on inside buckets in the opening half, or point guard Jason Richards driving for easy layups.
And don’t overlook the Wildcats’ defense, which bottled up UNC Greensboro star Kyle Hines throughout.
Hines, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Appalachian State, managed only one point in the first 20 minutes. Hines, a senior, also committed four of his team’s 11 first-half turnovers as Davidson’s post players swarmed him whenever the ball came his way.
Hines finished with 10 points, ending his college career with an 81-game streak of double-digit scoring. However, he was not much of a factor in this one.
Hines said it was difficult working down low against Davidson’s defense. “They were all over me tonight,” he said.
Curry’s third 3 of the opening half pushed the lead to double digits, 26-15. The Wildcats finished the half with a 6-0 run, holding UNC Greensboro without a point the last four minutes to lead 40-26.
Curry had 13 points and Meno eight as Davidson led 40-26.
The Wildcats kept it up after the break, scoring on eight straight possessions during one stretch to lead 64-42 after Bryant Barr’s 3-pointer with 9:26 left.
Curry landed on his back after his final bucket, and soon after came out as Davidson’s fans chanted his name.
Sunday wasn’t a total loss for UNC Greensboro coach Mike Dement’s family, though. Earlier, his wife, SMU coach Rhonda Rompola, led her team to the Conference USA tournament title and the school’s first NCAA tournament since 2000.
Dement sent Rompola a congratulatory text message before his Spartans took on Davidson.
The couple met when they both worked at SMU and married this past June.
“Maybe she’ll get a raise,” Dement joked. “I know I’ll get half her money.”