Scott Fowler

Davidson takes home hard-fought prize with win over Charlotte 49ers

You only had to watch five seconds Wednesday night to feel the intensity burning off the court for the annual Charlotte-Davidson game.

The jump ball just went on and on and on. Tipped out. Re-tipped by two other players. Tipped again. Players yelled and leaped and fought and, finally, the 49ers came down with what had to be one of the longest jump balls in college basketball history.

Charlotte won that small battle, but Davidson won the war Wednesday night, beating the 49ers, 92-86, at Belk Arena.

So dependent on the three-pointer, Davidson made every big one it needed to on Wednesday -- 14 of them in all -- and also whipped a bigger Charlotte team officially in rebounds and unofficially in floorburns.

“Let's face it, this is a game for rights in the city,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “And this city is a prize.”

“I give Davidson a lot of credit for hustling and scrapping,” 49ers coach Alan Major said.

Thirty of the 55 shots the Wildcats took were three-pointers, and that's about normal for this guard-centric team. Davidson shot well from everywhere Wednesday, though, ultimately shooting better from the field (58.2 percent) than Charlotte did from the free-throw line (57.1).

But the victory didn't just come because Davidson made threes. The Wildcats also outrebounded Charlotte, 37-31. "All five guys, just going and getting it," Davidson guard Tyler Kalinoski said.

The Battle for the Hornet’s Nest Trophy is more about pride than about the trophy itself, which is one of the weirdest mementoes you have ever seen. It looks like someone couldn't decide whether to sculpt an alien brain or a hornet's nest and went for something in the middle.

But no matter. The winner between these two schools -- separated by only 20 miles -- displays it proudly every year.

In 2012, Charlotte came to Davidson and won. In 2013, Davidson went to Charlotte and won.

Charlotte (4-3) came into the 2014 game with a more substantial resume, having beaten both South Carolina and Penn State already this season.

But Davidson (5-1) outhustled the 49ers and compensated well for Charlotte’s height advantage. Jordan Barham, who is a modest 6-4, kept getting loose underneath for the Wildcats and scored 13 first-half points.

Three of the 49ers’ starters -- Pierria Henry, Willie Clayton and Terrence Williams -- also missed the majority of the first half after picking up two quick fouls.

Davidson's Brian Sullivan has had a horrible shooting start to the season, going 8-for-44 for an 18.2 field-goal percentage entering the game. But McKillop kept starting him, and Sullivan (who scored 33 points against North Carolina in 2013) finally got it going against the 49ers. He had 13 first-half points.

Then, when Sullivan went cold, Kalinoski got hot just in time. Kalinoski scored all 19 of his points in the second half.

“Tyler is the heart of our team,” McKillop said. “Without doubt, he's the one who makes us go.”

With Davidson's lead cut to 65-60 with 11:47 to go, the Wildcats provided the most pivotal stretch of the game. Kalinoski made two three-pointers and then point guard Jack Gibbs led a fast break and flipped a pass behind him to Barham, who slammed home a dunk.

Suddenly, Davidson was up by 13 and the 49ers‘ shoulders were drooping.

Charlotte would never make a serious run after that. Davidson -- which led the game for all but two minutes -- got a boost from a loud crowd of 4,606.

It was all Sweet Caroline and three-pointers after that. And at the end the Alien Brain/Hornet's Nest was held up high, safe at Davidson for another year.

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