ASHEVILLE Top seed Davidson did exactly what it was supposed to do in its first game Saturday in the Southern Conference tournament overwhelm an outmanned opponent.
The Wildcats blasted No. 9 seed Georgia Southern 86-59, cruising into Sundays 6 p.m. semifinal against Appalachian State. A win against the No. 4-seeded Mountaineers a team Davidson has beaten by 23 and 35 points this season would propel the Wildcats into Mondays 7 p.m. final that will determine the conferences automatic NCAA tournament bid. Davidson won that bid in 2012.
Georgia Southern came out in a zone Saturday and Davidson simply whipped the ball around the perimeter, making 10 of 17 3-point attempts during the first half. The Wildcats led 45-22 at halftime.
Davidson maintained such a comfortable lead that coach Bob McKillop actually sat down for long stretches of the second half. McKillop played all of his starters less than 30 minutes and got 14 players into the game.
I was very, very pleased, McKillop said. They played as though they were having fun, like they were enjoying this experience.
When that happens, it relaxes the coach. So the coach was quite relaxed today watching his players do what theyve been trained to do.
Georgia Southern beat Davidson at home Jan. 14 still the Wildcats most recent loss. But Davidson blitzed the Eagles by 35 points a week ago, so this outcome wasnt a big surprise.
Georgia Southern put so much effort into defending Davidsons post players Saturday that it needed the Wildcats to miss a lot of outside shots to stay in the game. That didnt happen.
Every time I turned around, another (Davidson) 3 was going down, Eagles coach Charlton Young said. After about the fourth one, I turned around and said, Gosh almighty! This is unbelievable.
Nik Cochran led Davidson with 18 points and seven assists. The nations free-throw shooting leader missed a foul shot for the first time since Feb. 2, dropping his percentage from 95.5 to 94.7 and eliciting gasps from the pro-Davidson crowd at a half-full U.S. Cellular Center.
Tyler Kalinoski had 14 points, DeMon Brooks 13, Jake Cohen 12 and Chris Czerapowicz 10 as Davidson shot 56 percent from the field.