WICHITA One shot away is beginning to feel all too familiar to Davidson coach Bob McKillop this season.
For the second time in eight days, Davidson pushed a nationally-ranked opponent to its limits on their home court. And for the second time in eight days, Davidson had find solace in a near-upset.
This time it was the Wildcats forcing No. 10-ranked Wichita State to sweat on its own court, eventually succumbing in a 81-70 defeat on Sunday afternoon.
After the game, McKillop reflected on multiple opportunities in the final 10 minutes of the game which would have potentially reversed the outcome.
The one that seemed to pain him the most, however, was the pull-up three-pointer attempted by Chris Czerapowicz that bounced off the front of the rim and would have pulled Davidson to within a single point with 4:40 remaining.
“Right off the front of the rim,” McKillop lamented. “That’s been the story of our season.”
It was the fourth straight loss for the Wildcats, which fell to 4-9 on the season. But considering they had to navigate such a challenging slate – WSU was the fifth Top-25 opponent of the season – without their best player, De’Mon Brooks, for six games, the Wildcats’ record is deceiving.
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, who formerly coached at Winthrop, echoed that sentiment after watching his team have to claw to improve its school-record start to a season to 13-0.
“They are a much better team than their record,” Marshall said. “I told coach (McKillop) before the game, ‘That’s got to be the toughest schedule in the country.’ ”
Davidson certainly didn’t play the role of a pushover, as it never fell victim to the devastating run the sell-out crowd of 10,506 at Koch Arena desperately wanted.
After an evenly-played first half left WSU with a 36-32 halftime lead, the Wildcats fell behind by nine points twice early in the second half only to rally to within four both times. The second rally came when Tyler Kalinoski, who had a successful homecoming to Kansas with a team-high 17 points, drained two free throws to trim WSU’s lead to 68-64 with 4:06 remaining.
Needing a stop, Davidson switched to an aggressive zone, but a quick ball reversal opened up a Fred VanVleet three-pointer to jump start a 7-0 run by the Shockers to put away the game.
“I thought we fought,” McKillop said. “I thought we really fought. I thought we made some great decisions, but it seemed like every time we got right there knocking on the door, they had an answer.”
Brooks and Brian Sullivan, fresh off a career-best 33-point performance in the 97-85 overtime loss to North Carolina on Dec. 21, entered averaging over 30 points for Davidson. The duo were held in check by WSU, as they combined for 18 points on 4-of-17 shooting.
Wichita State was led by Cleanthony Early, who registered a game-high 24 points and added 10 rebounds.
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