Davidson heading back to tournament
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP)
De'Mon Brooks has had a difficult time this year playing up the high expectations he set following a sensational sophomore season.
Or, perhaps he was just saving his best performance for the most opportune time.
The junior forward had 24 points and eight rebounds, and the Davidson Wildcats defended their Southern Conference championship with a wire-to-wire 74-55 victory over the College of Charleston on Monday night.
With two-time conference player of the year Jake Cohen in foul trouble most of the game, Brooks took over and turned in a dominating inside performance showing a variety of low post moves the Cougars simply couldn't defend and was selected the tournament MVP.
''Coaches told me that if I just take my time I'm one of the best big men in the country,'' Brooks said. ''I think that's what I did today and just let the game come to me.''
''This was the De'Mon of last year,'' Wildcats coach Bob McKillop said of Brooks, who was co-player of the year in the conference in 2011-12.
JP Kuhlman chipped in with 14 points and Nick Cochran had 10. Cohen had 12 points despite playing less than half of the game, but he was quick to pass the praise to Brooks.
''This game was all De'Mon,'' Cohen said. ''He was outstanding. He was so dominant tonight. He was a huge part of winning us this title.''
Andrew Lawrence led College of Charleston with 19 points. Adjehi Baru added 11 points as the Cougars shot just 30 percent for the game.
Unlike a year ago when Davidson blew a 13-point lead with 2:47 left in the title game and needed double overtime to defeat Western Carolina, they left no doubt this one. Davidson outscored the Cougars 21-12 in the game's final 12 minutes.
''We didn't want to scare our fans like we did last year,'' Cohen said with a laugh.
Davidson (26-7) entered the game with the nation's third-longest winning streak at 16 games and wasted little time setting the tone. The Wildcats jumped out to a 10-3 lead behind the shooting of Kuhlman and the inside play of Brooks, who combined for 22 first-half points.
Davidson took a 35-26 lead into the locker room after shooting 47 percent and committing just one turnover. Meanwhile, the Wildcats' defense limited College of Charleston to 31 percent shooting in the first half.
Cohen, who became the first player since former Davidson star Stephen Curry to be named Southern Conference player of the year in back-to-back seasons, had a career-high 32 points in his last game against Charleston.
But he fell into foul trouble early and played only 10 minutes in the first half.
The second half opened in rough fashion for Davidson as Cohen picked up his third foul in the opening minute and Brooks hobbled to the bench after banging his knees with a Charleston player and the Cougars quickly cut Davidson's 12-point lead in half.
Brooks would return a minute later and the Wildcats would build a double-digit lead and take control of the game.
Throughout the second half, Davidson fans chanted ''you can't stop him'' every time Brooks scored - and they were right. He'd get the ball in the post and pivot until he created a short shot from in or around the paint.
The Cougars even tried doubling down on Brooks, but that didn't work either.
''We doubled down on him one time early and (Brooks) threw it opposite and they hit a three right at the beginning of the game,'' said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. ''We had a lot of confidence in our guys and I didn't want to get beat at the 3-point line.''
Brooks dedicated the game to his mother, who is recovering back in the Charlotte, N.C., area from an infection.
''It breaks her heart not to be here,'' Brooks said. ''She never misses a game. I thought about her and she just told me to go out and play my hardest.''
Now the big question becomes if this upperclassmen-laden team can make any noise in the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats led No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 15 New Mexico by double digits earlier this season, but wound up losing both games. They also played No. 2 Duke tough for one half.
''I hope we can capitalize on that experience,'' Davidson coach Bob McKillop said.
NOTES: College of Charleston, playing in the Southern Conference for the last season, was looking for its first NCAA tournament berth since 1999, the first year it entered the conference. The Cougars (24-10) will play in the Colonial Athletic Association beginning next season. ... Nik Cochran, the nation's leading free throw shooter, was 4 of 4 from the foul line.