Over the past 27 seasons, Bob McKillop has coached Davidson’s men’s basketball team to some pretty memorable wins.
One of the biggest came Saturday, as McKillop picked up his 500th career coaching victory with the Wildcats’ 83-70 win over Denison at Belk Arena.
After struggling against a scrappy Big Red squad for most of the first half, Davidson pulled away over the final 20 minutes for another McKillop milestone – his first 4-0 start since taking over the program in 1989.
“Anytime there’s a milestone, you have an opportunity to reflect back upon the people and the experiences that were part of that,” said McKillop, who smiled as he walked off the court to a standing ovation after Saturday’s win.
“I’m lucky, because when you have it at a place like Davidson, one place, all of those people and all of those memories cascade back because they all share in it. That’s what’s the joy of this, because there are so many people who contributed to make this happen.”
To put things in perspective, McKillop is the 92nd NCAA Division I coach to reach the 500-win plateau, and the second in three days (Michigan State’s Tom Izzo won his 500th on Thursday). McKillop is also the 19th coach to get 500 career victories at their first collegiate head coaching position.
“That’s a lot of wins, and it obviously started a long, long time ago,” said guard Brian Sullivan, who scored a season-high 23 points, one of four Wildcats players to finish in double figures.
“There’s been a lot of great players, great people that have been a part of all of those wins. But to be on the team that got the 500th for Coach is a really special moment for us.”
But Denison – an NCAA Division III program from Ohio – didn’t make things easy on Davidson.
Despite a size disadvantage, the Big Red (3-2) led seven times in the first half, the last at 32-31 on Darius White’s 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 34 seconds left, and had the score tied at 35-35 on Andrew Castagnetti’s 3-pointer with 3:25 left.
However, the Wildcats closed the half with a 10-2 run for a 45-37 halftime lead, and extended their margin to as many as 19 points midway through the second half.
Three who mattered
Bob McKillop: Before he came along, Davidson’s greatest coach was considered to be Lefty Driesell, who won 176 games in nine seasons and took the Wildcats to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in 1968-1969. Now Lefty’s a solid No. 2.
Brian Sullivan: Struggled a bit with shooting in the first half (4 of 10 from the field, 1 of 3 on 3-pointers), but he turned things around in the second half (5 of 7 shooting, 4 of 4 on 3-pointers).
Peyton Aldridge: Nearly had his third straight 20-point game, finishing with 19 points on 6 of 13 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line.
▪ Davidson guard Jack Gibbs, who missed Monday’s win over Mercer with a sprained ankle, showed some rust in the first half. He missed his first four shots (three of those on 3-point attempts), and didn’t hit his first field goal until the 1:08 mark of the half.
▪ Gibbs finished with 10 points, 16.5 below his season average, while Jake Belford put up his second career double-double with 14 points and a career-high 14 rebounds.
▪ The Wildcats had a 43-34 rebounding advantage against the smaller Big Red, including 15 offensive rebounds. That gave Davidson a 26-9 edge in second-chance points.
▪ Brian Sullivan’s older brother, Chris, is in his fifth season as an assistant coach at Denison.
▪ The Wildcats take on Mecklenburg County rival Charlotte and first-year 49ers coach Mark Price in the annual Hornets Nest Game on Tuesday at Halton Arena. Game time is 7 p.m.