ST. BONAVENTURE — Maybe it was the date.
After all, the Davidson College basketball team has won 13 straight games on Valentine’s Day, 10 of them under Bob McKillop, the Wildcats’ coach for the past 31 seasons.
Or maybe it was the site.
Davidson is 8-5 against St. Bonaventure, all-time, and though only 1-3 at the Reilly Center, the Wildcats lost their last visit here, a 117-113, triple overtime thriller.
No such excitement last night at the RC, though, and a near-sellout crowd of 5,237 started to leave at halftime as Davidson handed the Bonnies an emphatic 93-64 defeat in a game that was televised nationally by ESPN2.
The result was unexpected as coach Mark Schmidt’s team came in on a five-game win streak and was alone in third place in the Atlantic 10 standings at 9-3
And while the Bonnies were pegged for fifth in the A-10 preseason poll, Davidson, tabbed for second, came into Olean with a 12-11 record, but a mere 6-5 in the conference, tied for seventh … that after winning four of its last six.
BUT ON this night, the Wildcats displayed their best performance of the season, by far, while the Bonnies mustered their worst on a night when the nation was watching.
It didn’t start that way, Bona leading in the early going. But a 14-0 run put Davidson well ahead for goo up 33-18 — and rode it to the most one-sided victory on the Bonnies’ home court since a 30-point loss to Virginia Commonwealth almost a year ago to the day.
The numbers were indicting.
Seven Wildcats hit three-pointers, four of them with at least two, en route to 13 treys (in 26 attempts), padding their A-10 lead in three-point percentage and attempts from distance in conference games.
AFTERWARD, McKillop was in shock over his team’s performance.
“We could not have played better at both ends of the court ... we made big shots ... we played with confidence … I’m mystified by how well we played,” he admitted.
But why the stumbling early in the campaign?
“We started our season at the beginning of November and we began practice last summer,” McKillop said. “But a dramatic shift occurred when we lost Luke Frampton (sophomore who took a leave of absence after five games) and KiShawn Pritchett (redshirt senior who played one game before being lost to a knee injury)… two starters that were out for the year.
“All of a sudden, all of those things that worked so marvelously in the lineup (early on), now we had to revisit. For example, Luka Brajkovic was our fifth option back in November … now he’s the third option. Carter Collins and Michael Jones were coming off the bench back then, now they’re in the starting lineup. So that has taken some time for us to gel.”
But they sure achieved it Friday night heading into the season’s home stretch with teams jockeying for position heading into the A-10 championship tournament.
“I’ve been at this long enough to know there’s always a nice time to have a (good) victory and, believe me, I treasure every one because I know how hard victories are to get at this level,” said the 69-year-old McKillop who career record is now 591-361, all at Davidson.
And, for the record, though he’s lost three of four games at the RC, he loves the building.
“We’ve had great experiences here … it’s an incredibly outstanding environment,” McKillop said. “These fans are just sensational … not just the students, but the local people …”
Especially after you’ve sent them home disappointed.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)