Davidson’s eighth consecutive victory came in stunningly dominant fashion Thursday as the Wildcats pounded Virginia Commonwealth 82-55 in an Atlantic 10 game at Belk Arena.
The victory moved the Wildcats (22-6, 13-4) into a tie for first place with Dayton and within one game of the league’s regular-season championship.
A Davidson victory at Duquesne on Saturday or a loss by Dayton at La Salle would give the Wildcats the top seed in next week’s conference tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Davidson owns the tiebreaker over Dayton by virtue of its victory against the Flyers in January. The victory also clinched a double-bye for the Wildcats in the tournament. They won’t play until next Friday’s quarterfinals.
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Davidson, which was picked to finish 12th in its first season in the Atlantic 10, also saw its chances increase of earning at least an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. VCU (21-9, 11-6), the preseason pick to win the league, lost its third straight.
Senior guard Tyler Kalinoski scored 22 points to lead the Wildcats. Sophomore guard Jack Gibbs scored 15 and also had eight assists, six rebounds and four steals, and Jordan Barham, a 6-foot-4 guard, had 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Freshman forward Terry Larrier had 12 points for the Rams.
The Wildcats’ system, which doesn’t have a nickname, completely overwhelmed VCU’s “havoc” style of play. The Rams, who play a frenetic, full-court press game, usually feast on the opposition’s turnovers.
The Rams entered the game forcing an average of 16.6 turnovers per game, and induced Davidson into 12. The Wildcats shots 50.9 percent from the field and made 11 of 26 3-pointers.
“We wanted to attack the attacker,” said Kalinoski, who left the game briefly in the second half when he suffered a cut over his left eyebrow. “We knew they’d be in attack mode. But we came out and set the tone and put them on their heels.”
The Wildcats never trailed, taking a 40-21 lead at halftime. Almost all of Davidson’s first-half points came on 3-pointers (18 on 6-of-13 shooting) or in the paint (20 on 10-of-15 shooting).
Equally as important, the Wildcats defense limited the Rams to 31 percent shooting in the first half, lessening the opportunities for VCU to press defensively.
“(VCU) wants to make it a game of mistakes, not decisions,” said Wildcats coach Bob McKillop. “We made some pretty dog-gone good decisions.”
Davidson scored the game’s first seven points and never allowed VCU to get closer than that.
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