BOONE - Having led Appalachian State for the first 35-plus minutes of their basketball game Saturday afternoon at the Holmes Center, Davidson suddenly found itself trailing by a point with 4 minutes, 19 seconds to go.
Wildcats coach Bob McKillop called a timeout, huddled his team around him and reminded them to stick with what has worked through the first half the season. He then diagrammed an out-of-bounds play, sent them back on the court and watched his club do exactly as he'd coached them to do.
Freshman Tyler Kalinoski hit center Jake Cohen on a crisp in-bounds pass, producing a three-point play that put Davidson ahead again. Three straight low-post baskets by De'Mon Brooks - the last a three-point play - and the Wildcats were ahead by nine with two minutes remaining on their way to an 83-79 Southern Conference victory.
"Coach talks about sticking to our plan. We trust our system. It's the foundation of our team and my teammates trusted in me to make shots," said Brooks, who finished with 19 points despite fighting foul trouble much of the game.
For the Wildcats (12-4, 6-0), it was an important step. They had won their previous three Southern Conference games by an average of 24 points but couldn't shake the Mountaineers (7-9, 3-3), despite leading by as many as 10 points several times.
Foul trouble was an issue, with Chris Czerapowicz fouling out and three other Wildcats finishing with four personal fouls. Davidson made just five of 17 3-point shots and missed eight foul shots, an unexpected twist for the nation's top free-throw shooting team.
They also lost forward Clint Mann to a head injury late in the first half after what McKillop called the best game of Mann's Davidson career.
"We have guys believing in the system," McKillop said. "They stuck with what has brought us to this point. That's one of the delights of this team."
With Cohen having another big game (21 points, seven rebounds) and Czerapowicz scoring 13 points, the Wildcats found a nice offensive balance. They worked the ball inside as often as possible to Cohen and Brooks, who used their quickness against the Appalachian State defense.
The Mountaineers countered with strong games from forward Andre Williamson (14 points, six rebounds), former Charlotte Christian star Omar Carter (17 points) and big man Isaac Butts (10 points, nine rebounds).
"I thought we did some really good things. We're that close to being 5-1 (in the league)," Capel said, holding two fingers close together. "That doesn't matter on paper, but I know we'll be there at the end of the day. I'm very confident of that."
Davidson guard Nik Cochran started the week as the best free-throw shooter in Division I men's basketball (.932 percent), and the Wildcats ranked No. 1 as a team (.809). They weren't quite as sharp against Appalachian State and it made a difference.
Cochran, who had made 68 of 73 foul shots entering the game, missed three of nine against Appalachian State. The Wildcats overall made 16 of 24 - not terrible, but not up to their standard.
Wildcats forward Clint Mann was having what coach Bob McKillop called the "best game of his career" when he appeared to get kicked in the head while scrapping for a loose ball late in the first half. Mann lay on the court for several minutes before being helped off. He did not return to the game after scoring eight points in nine minutes.
"We're just being very cautious," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "We just didn't feel he was ready to go back in."
Half an hour after his team's disappointing loss, Appalachian State coach Jason Capel was already hoping for another game against the Wildcats. Without a second game on the regular-season schedule, it would have to come in the Southern Conference tournament.
"We're getting better," Capel said. "I'd love to see those guys championship night in Asheville."