When Bob McKillop looks at Davidson’s early-season schedule, all he sees are what he called “trap games.”
Yet the Wildcats have survived all of those traps so far, with Saturday’s 78-58 victory over Niagara at Belk Arena giving Davidson its first 8-1 start in six years.
Tyler Kalinoski scored 17 points and three other players finished in double figures for the Wildcats, who head into their final two games of 2014 – on the road against College of Charleston on Dec. 20 and No. 6 Virginia on Dec. 30 – riding a six-game winning streak.
“You ask any Davidson fan what our record would be at the end of the first semester, they’d be hard-pressed to say we’d be 8-1,” McKillop said. “No one would believe it – except the guys in the locker room.
“We’ve been in a lot of trap games already – Stetson, UNC Wilmington, Montana. We’ve faced trap game after trap game with the kind of resolve and toughness that makes me proud of the leadership of this team.”
The Wildcats had to work a little harder Saturday against the Purple Eagles (1-6) than in its previous seven wins.
After shooting 53.8 percent in the first half and jumping out to an 18-point lead, Davidson opened the second half by missing its first seven shots and going nearly 51/2 minutes before scoring its first point.
The lull allowed Niagara to get some momentum, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 52-40 on Wesley Myers’ 3-pointer with 9 minutes, 43 seconds remaining.
“They really got up on us on defense, and that kind of messed with our flow,” said Kalinoski, who also had seven rebounds and six assists. “But our defense played exceptionally well. When we play defense like that, it builds on the offensive side. It gives us kind of a spark.”
Davidson responded with a 14-3 run to push its lead past the 20-point mark. The Wildcats pulled ahead by as many as 24 when Kalinoski’s layup gave them a 73-49 margin with 2:15 remaining.
Jack Gibbs added 11 points, and Jordan Barham and Oskar Michelsen had 10 points each for Davidson.
Ramone Snowden scored 14 points, Myers 12 and Emile Blackman 11 for Niagara, which suffered its fifth consecutive loss.