Davidson downs Charleston, 74-55, in SoCon Finals
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — In the end, Davidson proved to be too experienced, too tough and ultimately, too good for the College of Charleston.
De’Mon Brooks scored 24 points and JP Kuhlman added 14 points to lead four Davidson players in double-figures as the Wildcats beat the College of Charleston, 74-55, Monday night in the Southern Conference tournament final at U.S. Cellular Center.
It was the second straight and league-record 12th overall SoCon tournament title for Davidson (26-7) and its fifth since 2006. With the victory, the Wildcats earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Three times Charleston played Davidson this season, and three times the Wildcats showed their veteran savvy against the Cougars in convincing victories.
“Give Davidson credit, they are a really, really good team and can hurt you in so many ways,” said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. “We needed everyone to play well in order to beat them because Davidson plays so hard. They are a very good team, and in this particular year with those upperclassmen, they are really, really good. They’re going to be a tough team in the (NCAA) tournament.”
On a night when Jake Cohen, the SoCon’s player of the year, struggled with foul trouble and his shooting rhythm, the Wildcats almost didn’t need him to play at a high level.
Brooks more than picked up the slack.
Brooks, who was the SoCon player of the year a season ago, had his way in the paint. Adjehi Baru, Trent Wiedeman and Willis Hall took turns guarding the 6-7 forward with little or no success.
Wojcik said the option of double-teaming Brooks in the post wasn’t really an option. That would have left the Wildcats shooters open for 3-point attempts. The Wildcats were the top 3-point shooting team in the SoCon during the regular season.
“Davidson moves too much and they run that five-man motion really, really well,” Wojcik said. “They are a tough team to double. We dug on them early, and they reversed the ball and knocked down a three right at the beginning of the game. They are a very good 3-point shooting team, and I don’t like to get beat from the 3-point line, but in the end, you pick your poison with them.”
After shooting well in their first two games of the tournament, the Cougars were just 17 of 57 from the floor and only 1 of 10 from 3-point range against the Wildcats.
“We missed a lot of shots that we were hitting earlier in the tournament,” said senior guard Andrew Lawrence, who led the Cougars with 19 points. “Give Davidson credit, they were good defensively, but we missed shots that we normally make.”
The Cougars looked nervous to start the game as the Wildcats jumped to a 7-0 lead after their first three possessions.
Charleston answered with a 8-3 run and closed it to 10-8 on Lawrence’s 3-pointer with 14:34 to play in the first half. That would be as close as the Cougars would get the rest of the game. The Wildcats went on a 12-2 run over the next four minutes and the Cougars would have to play catch-up the rest of the night as they trailed 35-26 at halftime.
Charleston made a brief run to start the second half, getting to within, 38-32, on an Baru’s jump hook with 18:00 to play.
But Davidson’s motion offense began to take its toll as the Wildcats slowly pushed the advantage back to 10 points, then 15 and ultimately 20 points late in the second half.
With 24 wins against Division-I opponents, the Cougars’ season should continue. Wojcik said the National Invitational Tournament is probably out of the question, but he likes the Cougars chances at earning a bid for College Basketball Invitational tournament. Ironically, it was Wojcik’s Tulsa team that won the inaugural event in 2008.
“It’s a good tournament and you look at the teams that have won it and they are very good teams,” Wojcik said. “If we get invited, we’ll definitely go. It would be an honor.”