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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Davidson coach Bob McKillop insists his team's brutal schedule will pay dividends down the road for his Wildcats.
And, he said he hasn't lost faith in his players after a 0-3 start.
The Wildcats lost 70-57 to No. 25 Virginia on Saturday, their second loss to a ranked opponent this season. They fell to No. 4 Duke 111-77 on the road to open the season.
So the schedule gets easier, right? Not quite.
They will open with Georgia next weekend in the Charleston Classic and face No. 11 North Carolina and No. 16 Wichita State in December on the road.
"It's going to be a journey and there will be some more bumps in the road," McKillop said. "We understand that. But I assure we will be all right and we will get better. As we progress through this schedule which is highly challenging, we will get better and we will learn.
"We are ready to keep this program moving in the right direction. Despite a 0-3 record, I'm very optimistic."
The game turned one minute into the second half when Virginia coach Tony Bennett called a timeout and lit into his team.
Then the Cavaliers embarked on a 22-9 run.
"We talked about setting the tone in the second half and I didn't like what I saw to start," Bennett said. "I told them 'That's enough. Let me see you scrap.' I was ticked and they needed to hear it — and they needed to respond. And for the most part, they did."
Mike Tobey led the Cavaliers with 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench, while Malcolm Brogdon added 17 points and seven rebounds as Virginia (2-1) rebounded from a tough loss to No. 14 VCU Tuesday.
Akil Mitchell, who played high school basketball in Charlotte, overcame a sluggish first half and finished with 11 points — all in the second half — and nine rebounds for Virginia.
"Things weren't going our way and coach Bennett, in one of his marquee moments let us know, hey look, this is what we have to do to win," Mitchell said. "I think guys took it to heart and that's how we pulled away in the second half."
Justin Anderson added 12 rebounds and eight rebounds for Virginia, which outrebounded Davison 42-30 and won despite Joe Harris being held without a field goal.
Tyler Kalinoski led Davidson with 13 points. The Wildcats shot just 31 percent from the field.
Virginia had lost 59-55 to VCU when Treveon Graham buried a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left on the clock. This one wouldn't be that close.
Virginia took control early in the second half, and the 6-foot-11 Tobey dominated the boards during that stretch.
"We knew we had a size advantage, so we tried to get the ball into Mike (Tobey) and me," Mitchell said. "Once we started banging inside, they kind of faltered a little bit."
Davidson would come within nine with 3:36 left in the game, but Anderson drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
The taller Cavaliers were focused on holding two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year De'Mon Brooks in check, swarming the 6-foot-7 forward every time he touched the ball around the basket.
Brooks, who came in averaging 18 points and eight rebounds, only managed two field goals in the first half — both on uncontested 3-pointers. He finished with 13 points in the game on 4 of 15 shooting with three rebounds.
"We use our post trap a lot and we wanted to make it hard on him," Bennett said. "When he got a catch we wanted to be there and trap. ... We said don't let him go to work. We wanted to make and them beat outside over the top with contested threes."
It looked as though the Cavaliers were on the verge of pulling away in the first half before McKillop called timeout with 6:24 left in the first half and his team down by 12. The Wildcats responded with a 3-point barrage from four different players to tie the game at 27-all.
Brian Sullivan had 11 of his 13 points in the first half, including three 3-pointers to keep Davidson close.
NOTES: The game was a homecoming of sorts for Bennett, who played three seasons (1992-95) with the Charlotte Hornets and met his wife here. "I like Charlotte," he said with a laugh. ... Davidson didn't attempt a free throw in the first half. ... Virginia shot 52 percent for the game.