At times this season, Davidson has struggled to get off to a good start, especially in the second half.
That wasn’t a problem Saturday for the Wildcats, who took command early and pulled away for an 89-54 Atlantic 10 victory against Saint Louis.
“(At) Richmond it was a problem, Virginia it was a problem and Virginia Commonwealth it was a problem,” coach Bob McKillop said after the Wildcats’ 14th straight win at Belk Arena.
Jordan Barham came off the Davidson (11-3, 2-1) bench for a career-high 21 points, Brian Sullivan added 18, Jack Gibbs had 12 and eight assists, and Tyler Kalinoski had 11 points – including the 1,000th of his career.
“Those first 3-4 minutes of the second half were a problem for us, and the captains understood it,” McKillop said. “They put their foot down. I challenged them to get the guys to follow their lead.”
Sullivan scored all of his points in the first half as Davidson led by as many as 23 points, while Barham put up 15 points in the final 20 minutes to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 38 points late in the half.
“That first four minutes, the starters came out and really set the tone,” said Barham, who also had nine rebounds. “They got stops on defense when we needed to. That got us in transition, and got us easy looks.
“Defensively at the start of the game, I don’t think we could’ve played any better than the way we did.”
Sullivan hit his first seven shots – including all four of his 3-pointers – and for a time outscored the Billikens (8-8, 0-3) in the first half. That allowed Davidson to jump to a 15-4 lead in the first four minutes, and a 37-14 lead with 5:40 remaining.
“I struggled a little bit last year, and ended up shooting pretty well,” said Sullivan, who was shooting 35.5 percent from the field entering Saturday’s game. “But it is nice to see them start falling and get off to a good start.”
Ahead 39-25 at the half, the Wildcats used a 34-9 run to put the game away. Barham’s alley-oop dunk with 2:55 left gave Davidson an 82-44 lead.
“Coming out of the locker room at halftime has been a challenge for us this year. … but tonight was a big step for us,” said Kalinoski, whose 1,000th point came on a 3-pointer with 9:43 left in the first half.
“This three-game stretch just reaffirms our confidence in how good we are, and how good we can be.”