Scott Fowler

Davidson makes bold statement by handling VCU’s ‘Havoc’

Davidson's Tyler Kalinoski and VCU 22 Terry Larrier go after a loose ball during the VCU at Davidson Atlantic 10 men's basketball game on March 5, 2015 at Belk Arena.
Davidson's Tyler Kalinoski and VCU 22 Terry Larrier go after a loose ball during the VCU at Davidson Atlantic 10 men's basketball game on March 5, 2015 at Belk Arena. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

When you draw up your last home game of the season, you draw it up exactly like this.

Davidson blasted past Virginia Commonwealth 82-55 Thursday night, turning VCU’s vaunted “Havoc” full-court pressure into a ho-hum press.

The Wildcats got some help from one of the school’s swimmers, who stripped down to his Speedo, danced in front of several VCU players shooting free throws and helped VCU miss five of its first seven attempts before a policeman escorted him from the building.

Like the rest of the night, that was entertaining. The swimmer, a Davidson junior named Luke Burton who last month set an Atlantic 10 conference record in the 200-yard backstroke, got a standing ovation as the policeman led him out.

“They told me I could come back if I kept my clothes on,” Burton said at halftime. “But I think I’m going to watch the rest of it on TV. I have confidence that Coach McKillop won’t let this one slip away.”

He was right about that. There was no way Davidson was letting this one slip away, not on Tyler Kalinoski’s senior night and not on an evening where Davidson outplayed a VCU team ranked No. 14 at one point this season in absolutely every facet. Don’t forget that although Davidson is known for its offense, it can play really good defense – to hold VCU to 55 is quite a feat and qualifies as a statement win that came on ESPNU.

Davidson blitzed the Rams for either an open layup or an open three-pointer on seemingly every possession. The Wildcats won their eighth straight game, and if they win Saturday at Duquesne they will win the Atlantic 10 in their first season in the league.

That’s extraordinary, given that Davidson was picked to finish 12th and has no superstar. But the Wildcats have harnessed something special this season, and enough people are figuring that out that a few tickets were selling for $100 on stubhub.com for this one. Even though Davidson’s students were on spring break, Belk Arena was a tight sellout. As usual, Davidson spread the wealth and the ball, with tri-captains Kalinoski, Jack Gibbs and Brian Sullivan all playing well and combining for 48 points.

One of the biggest questions surrounding Davidson now: Will the Wildcats make the NCAA tournament if they win Saturday but then get upset early in the A-10 tournament?

I would argue the answer is yes. If you finish No. 1 in the regular season in a league as good as the A-10, you should be in the tournament. This is one of the reasons Davidson joined the A-10, after all – it is not a one-bid league, as the Southern Conference always has been.

Meanwhile, some of you want to know more about the Speedo guy. OK. Burton was part of a small pack of Davidson swimmers and divers who stripped down to Speedos at a Davidson home game a month ago during opponent free throws. That act got them onto ESPN.

This time, though, Davidson was on spring break. So the rest of Burton’s compatriots were gone. Burton, from Kennesaw, Ga., stuck around.

“I’m the lone wolf this time,” he said.

Burton’s suit was a Speedo designed to look like a tuxedo. Burton called it a “Tux-pedo,” paired it with a Santa hat and said it was “obvious that VCU couldn’t handle it.”

VCU couldn’t handle Davidson in general. It was such a blowout that little-used senior Ali Mackay got to both start the game and then get inserted again late, and Kalinoski got to leave early to a standing ovation.

For Davidson, it was everything you would want from a senior night. And a free-throw lounge act. And, really, an entire regular season.

Fowler: sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler

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