It wasn’t the type of game Davidson wanted to play, but it was the kind the nation’s second-leading scoring offense needed to escape with a road win.
The Wildcats shot well below their season average Wednesday night, but used lockdown defense and clutch scoring in the game’s final minutes to secure a 71-63 victory over Massachusetts at Mullins Center.
Davidson (12-3, 3-1 Atlantic 10) shot 41.3 percent from the field and 24.1 percent from 3-point range. The Wildcats, however, won with defense, holding UMass to one field goal over the final five minutes to close a 12-4 run.
“I thought our defense was as good as we’ve had it from a standpoint of controlling the ability of a team to put back-to-back scores together against us,” coach Bob McKillop said. “It was a perfect scenario of defensive stops playing into a struggle on the offensive end.”
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Brian Sullivan and Tyler Kalinoski scored 14 points apiece to lead Davidson to its first A-10 road win in program history.
The duo scored the game’s two biggest baskets. Trailing 59-57, Sullivan hit a 3 from the corner to give the Wildcats the lead. Kalinoski followed with a three-point play on a driving layup in transition to take extend it to 63-59 with 3:17 left.
“We were teetering around and that might’ve been the spark that got us going,” Sullivan said of his 3.
Jack Gibbs (13 points) and Kalinoski sunk the Wildcats’ final six free throws to ice the game.
Davidson forced the Minutemen to commit 16 turnovers, including three in a two-minute span at the end of the game, guided by Kalinoski’s five steals.
The Wildcats were smothered by UMass’ full-court press early in the second half, committing three quick turnovers and falling behind by as many as five points.
A Davidson spurt tied the game at 54-54 on a fast-break layup by Gibbs. Kalinoski tied the game again following a Cady Lalanne free throw and Derrick Gordon transition bucket with a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound.
The Wildcats pulled ahead for good on Sullivan’s 3 on their next possession.
“The numbers don’t do justice to the offensive talent that we have,” McKillop said.