Hofstra grad Bob McKillop was coaching for the first time against his alma mater and against Pride coach Tom Pecora, the man he hired as his assistant from 1984-87 at Long Island Lutheran High School. But the Davidson coach said he tried to put sentiment and friendship out of his mind last night at Madison Square Garden.
"I looked at 'Home' and 'Guest,' and I liked the number on the 'Guest' side,'' McKillop said after the Wildcats' 61-52 victory in the Holiday Festival consolation game. "It's wonderful to be in Madison Square Garden and spend Christmas in New York, but it's bittersweet against my alma mater and my old friend.''
The matchup neither wanted happened because Davidson lost to Cornell and Hofstra lost to St. John's in the Sunday semifinals. That had to be tougher for the Pride, which led by five before being flattened by the Red Storm's game-ending 18-1 run. Hofstra had won four straight against St. John's.
"They got a lot of their fire taken away in the loss to St. John's,'' McKillop said. "That's a rivalry, and Hofstra has a lot of city kids who play with an edge against St. John's. Losing the way they did was a punch in the belly.''
The first half of the consolation game couldn't have been what McKillop or Pecora had in mind when they got into coaching. The Wildcats shot 32.1 percent, and that topped Hofstra's 28.1 percent. At one point, Davidson turned the ball over on seven of eight possessions but saw its lead drop by only a point.
Davidson led from the opening basket and was tenacious fending off every Hofstra surge, which produced six ties, the last at 27 early in the second half. That's when the Wildcats took control with a 17-4 run that began with back-to-back three-pointers by Will Archambault.
Hofstra had good looks, but it seemed there was a lid on the basket, especially for top scorer Charles Jenkins, who managed only 11 points and shot 5-for-14.
Freshman point guard Chaz Williams provided 14 points and impressive freshman forward Halil Kanacevic (10 points, nine rebounds) had six in a 15-7 Hofstra run that cut Davidson's lead to 53-48 when Jenkins converted a three-point play with 2:26 left. But Davidson (4-8), led by Jake Cohen's 18 points, hung tough down the stretch.
Pecora said the shots that fell against St. John's wouldn't go down but added, "We don't make excuses. You're 18 years old playing at Madison Square Garden. If you don't play your butt off, something is wrong.''