ASHEVILLE Davidson's 83-67 victory against Elon in the semifinals of the Southern Conference basketball tournament Sunday allowed the Wildcats to see what life is like without star forward De'Mon Brooks for a while.
It wasn't that bad, mainly because Davidson could fall back on another star forward - Jake Cohen.
With Brooks on the bench for a sizeable chunk of the second half, the Wildcats (24-7) turned to Cohen to run away from the Phoenix (15-16) and into tonight's championship game at 9 against Western Carolina at the U.S. Cellular Center.
Brooks picked up his second and third fouls before the second half was 14 seconds old. That briefly helped Elon cut a six-point Davidson halftime lead to 39-38 with 18 minutes, 11 seconds left.
But, as Brooks watched from the bench, Davidson stretched the lead to 52-40 over the next four minutes, with Cohen scoring 12 points.
"I thought Jake was superb," said Wildcats coach Bob McKillop. "We're going to go to whomever's open and we like to build inside-out. Obviously Jake is a guy to go to."
Cohen, who was the Southern Conference's player of the year as voted by the media, finished with 24 points. Brooks, the player of the year according to the league's coaches, had 20.
When Brooks re-entered the game after eight minutes and Davidson up 54-42, he quickly scored seven points.
"The great part of this team is we have so many weapons," said Cohen. "One guy can have an off night or be in foul trouble and a guy will come in and pick him up.
"So even though De'Mon was on the bench, we were able to do great things without him. Once he came back in, he was a force."
The Wildcats clamped down defensively in the second half as the Phoenix, which was led by Jack Isenbarger's 22 points, shot 37.0 percent. Davidson, which has been among the national leaders all season in free-throw percentage, made 18 of 23 (78.3 percent).
Next up for Davidson is tonight's championship game, a spot the Wildcats haven't been in since 2008, when they won the title and advanced to the NCAA tournament's elite eight behind guard Stephen Curry.
"This team is getting better and better," said McKillop. "It's not feeling the pressure that the head coach might be feeling."
The victory was somewhat bittersweet for McKillop. Elon coach Matt Matheny is a former Davidson player who was also an assistant under McKillop for 16 years.
"You really try to divorce yourself from that," said McKillop. "But that's not easy because I'm human and Matt is like my younger brother. I have the greatest respect for him."