Davidson falls to 1-5 after New Mexico loss
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Davidson coach Bob McKillop knows his players won’t be down long, despite their early-season struggles.
McKillop has led the Wildcats to seven NCAA tournaments, including the past two as Southern Conference champions, and understands he’s got a team that will work and grow from the struggles it’s had this month.
Davidson moved to 1-5 for the second time in five seasons after a 79-58 loss to No. 19 New Mexico in the third-place game of the Charleston Classic on Sunday.
“You try and re-visit the memory back of when this team did lose and how we responded to losing,” McKillop explained. “And if you look at last year, we lost early to New Mexico, we lost early to Milwaukee, we lost early to Charlotte, we lost early to Drexel and we lost early to Georgia Southern. And we grew up from those experiences.”
This season, Davidson has been beaten by Duke, Virginia, Clemson and now the Lobos.
“One of the marvelous things about coaching the men I have is they constantly want to learn and want to work to learn,” McKillop said.
Brian Sullivan had 17 points and four 3-pointers to lead the Wildcats.
One answer McKillop didn’t have was how long star De’Mon Brooks might be out after getting injured against Clemson on Friday night. Brooks, the Southern Conference’s preseason pick for player of the year, sat on the bench in his warm-ups and needed crutches to walk. The Wildcats don’t play again until Nov. 30 at Stetson.
“He’s progressing. Emotionally, he’ll be ready,” McKillop said.
New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow scored 18 points, and Alex Kirk had his fifth double-double in as many games with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Kendall Williams scored 12 points, while backcourt mate Hugh Greenwood added nine points and 10 rebounds for New Mexico (4-1).
“I know what I’m going to get out of my four guys,” said first-year Lobos coach Craig Neal. “I was hoping and praying that we’d bounce back and I thought we did. But it was because of our leadership, because of our four major guys that have come back.”
The 7-foot Kirk took full advantage of Davidson’s size disadvantage and largely had his way inside. It was the junior’s 15th career game with double figures in points and rebounds. Kirk also had three blocks.
Davidson tried to negate New Mexico’s edge in height with some long-distance shooting, attempting 20 3-pointers in the opening half. But the strategy came up short.
McKillop says the Wildcats won’t wallow in their rough start.
“I know darn well that they’re down,” he said of his players. “They don’t accept losing. They’re not going to rationalize it. They’re going to say, ‘I have to improve this. I have to improve that.’ And they’ll work at it.”
Davidson entered with a well-earned reputation as a slayer of college basketball giants.
Without Brooks, Davidson had little chance of hanging down low with Kirk, Bairstow and the taller, physical Lobos.
Kirk had nine of his team’s first 13 points. The Wildcats tightened up around the 7-footer after that, running two or three players at him each time he caught the ball. That opened space for Bairstow.