Savvy Long Islander Bob McKillop has piloted Davidson to many impressive wins in his 27 seasons as men’s basketball coach. On Saturday afternoon he found his jet low on fuel against Virginia Commonwealth in an Atlantic 10 semifinal at Barclays Center.
Playing its third game in three days and after coming off an overtime upset that ended as Friday night was becoming Saturday, Davidson didn’t have enough left in the tank against a foe that would have required at least a full one and possibly even more. The Wildcats’ shots fell short. They didn’t get out to guard the three-point line. And in the end VCU had a 76-54 blowout win before 10,439.
The Rams never trailed, opening the game with a 9-2 run, leading by 13 at halftime and building the margin to 69-39 midway through the second half.
Shaka Smart might have moved on to Texas, but VCU (24-9) hasn’t stopped looking like a team capable of postseason damage. The Rams reached their fourth straight Atlantic 10 title game and will meet St. Joseph’s Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
VCU made 10 three-pointers, turned eight offensive rebounds into 12 points and held Davidson to 26 points below its season average.
“It was kind of a perfect storm: A 9 p.m. game on Thursday night, a 9 p.m. game on Friday night and overtime, and then an afternoon game against a team that is in you every second of the possession,” McKillop said, glancing at the boxscore that showed his ’Cats shot 37 percent from the field and 21.7 percent on three-pointers. “They certainly made it uncomfortable for us to run offense.”
Korey Billbury scored 17 points, Mo Alie-Cox 13 points and JeQuan Lewis 11 points for VCU. Brian Sullivan led Davidson (20-12) with 15 points. Davidson is off the NCAA Tournament bubble now, but McKillop said he hopes his team has a postseason in the NIT.
Rams first-year coach Will Wade, whose team beat Massachusetts by 15 in a quarterfinal, sees a team now playing its best.
“You see a lot of these teams across the country in these tournaments — it doesn’t go so hot when the pressure is on them,” Wade said. “When the pressure is on us, we’ve put the pedal to the metal and blown two pretty good teams out. I think that says a lot about our guys’ mentality and attacking it and going after it and trying to earn it. We’re going to try to do it again tomorrow.”