ASHEVILLE, N.C. — While Georgia Southern was busy beating Wofford on Friday in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament at the U.S. Cellular Center, No. 1 seed Davidson was resting.
When GSU met the Wildcats Saturday afternoon, it was obvious.
Davidson drained 10 first-half 3 pointers and turned a 23-point halftime lead into an 86-59 win over the Eagles to eliminate GSU in the quarterfinals.
Georgia Southern (14-19) made a point of shutting down the Wildcats’ forwards, De’Mon Brooks and Southern Conference Player of the Year Jake Cohen, and Davidson (24-7) made the Eagles pay.
The Wildcats took a 45-22 lead into the half. They hit 10 of 17 3-point attempts in the first 20 minutes.
“After about the fourth one I looked over and said, ‘Gosh almighty.’ Everybody was hitting them,” GSU coach Charlton Young said. “In the first half, I want to give my guys credit. They sprinted them off the line, they contested them.”
Davidson’s three starting guards were a combined 6 of 8 from long distance. Tyler Kalinoski came off the bench to hit 4 of 6.
The Wildcats hit their first five shots of the half, including three 3-pointers. Five Wildcats finished the game with double-digit points.
“The floodgates opened for everybody,” Young said.
Georgia Southern’s Eric Ferguson, who scored a game-high 17 points in the Eagles’ 60-44 win Friday over Wofford, said he was playing at about 50 percent while fighting through a knee injury that will require surgery in the offseason. He played only 16 minutes against Davidson, in between frequent breaks. He scored only three points.
“Him and C.J. Reed were great, yesterday (against Wofford), offensively,” Young said. “Davidson made a concentrated effort to take those two guys away.”
Reed was limited to just 10 points on 4 of 16 shooting from the floor.
Marvin Baynham came off the bench to match Cleon Roberts for a team-high 13 points.
The Eagles limited Davidson to 22 points in the paint, but the Wildcats got 39 points from behind the 3-point line.
“If you told me before the game we’d score 86 points and we’d have 12 shots total from Jake and De’Mon, I’d say that is surprising,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “There was a different kind of look for us today.”
The most glaring stat for the Wildcats was their 20 assists on 28 made shots. The Eagles had only four assists in the game.
Things were tight in the early minutes as GSU scrapped its way to a 13-13 score. Davidson responded with an 11-0 run, but Roberts got a steal and a two-handed slam on the other end to spark a run for the Eagles. Baynham made a jumper to cut the gap to 24-19, but it was all over after that.
The Wildcats closed the half on a 21-3 run. Georgia Southern went scoreless for the last 5 minutes, 51 seconds of the half.
“Obviously we were the underdog. They’re Davidson,” Young said. “They’re supposed to win it. It was important to stay with them early. We thought we could, but then they started knocking down 3-ball, after 3-ball, after 3-ball.”
Davidson continued the nation’s third-longest winning streak with its 15th consecutive win. The last time the Wildcats fell was Jan. 9, against GSU in Hanner Fieldhouse. It was their only SoCon loss of the season.
Chattanooga 78, Georgia Southern 53
The top-seeded Chattanooga Lady Mocs continued their dominance into the postseason, handing No. 8 Georgia Southern a 78-53 loss in the quarterfinals of the SoCon tournament Saturday at Kimmel Arena.
The Eagles (8-23) trailed by as few as eight early in the second half, but the defense of UTC (27-3) held GSU to just 31.6 percent shooting.
Sophomore Anna Claire Knight and senior Meredyth Frye led GSU with 15 points each, and junior MiMi DuBose added 13.
Chattanooga was paced by Alex Black’s 13 points. The Mocs got 33 points of the bench, and 11 different players scored.
Matt Yogus may be reached at (912) 489-9408.