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Davidson earns first conference win; McKillop speaks on parity within the Atlantic 10

A 1-3 start to A-10 play hasn’t deterred the Wildcats head coach in a league that offers consistent chaos

NCAA Basketball: Davidson at Purdue
After taking over the program for his father in 2022, Matt McKillop has the Wildcats off to an 11-6 start this season.
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Following an 0-3 start to Atlantic 10 play, Davidson traveled to Rose Hill Gym for a Wednesday night matchup with Fordham that provided the physicality and chaos this conference has become known for.

Despite the Rams leading 37-34 at the half, it was the Wildcats emerging with a 79-69 win behind Reed Bailey with a career-high double-double of 24 points and 12 rebounds.

In addition, his perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line tied a program record to help Davidson see out the win late into the second half.

For head coach Matt McKillop, Bailey’s interior presence was critical against an aggressive and scrappy Rams defense in spite of a lackluster shooting night from the field

“[Bailey’s] young, he’s a sophomore and there have been times where that has not allowed him to respond in a way that lets him play the way he’s capable of,” McKillop said. “That’s what I’m most pleased with, the mental toughness to take hits, to miss shots in the paint and at the rim, and it did not stop him from being aggressive, attacking, and getting the offensive glass.”

For a program with just three seniors playing five or more minutes, having mature veterans like Grant Huffman to lead the way can make all the difference in developing that young talent.

Against the Rams, Huffman tied his career-high with 24 points, bringing some clutch play down the stretch and getting to the charity stripe to help the Wildcats pull away after the U4 break.

“[Huffman] leads with his voice, he leads with his energy, and he leads with his toughness and he was so freakin’ tough tonight,” McKillop said. “[Fordham] plays all their different defenses, and none of them are easy to score against. Nothing fazed Grant. He just kept pushing, kept attacking, and it didn’t go right every time, but it went right enough for him to lead us to victory.”

After non-conference wins over Maryland, Charlotte and Wright State and starting winless against A10 competition, McKilliop spoke on the perseverance from his team to battle for a road win over Fordham.

“You never want to think about must-win and we never talked about that but man, we needed one tonight,” McKillop said. “For our guys to be rewarded, fighting like that after we came two possessions short at Rhode Island last week and literally one possession short from winning that game against [George Washington].”

Particularly on a day where Davidson came back to defeat the Rams, St. Bonaventure thrashed Rhode Island, and Loyola-Chicago took down UMass in overtime, the havoc of this league is evident once again this season.

Despite the now 1-3 start, McKillop said that parity within the tightly contested A10 offers his Wildcats a chance to capitalize in a conference where the competition is always consistent.

“The parity is crazy,” McKillop said . “Every night [in the A10], it’s gonna be like this. Rhode Island had a poor non-conference stretch, they were 3-0 heading into today. Even Fordham, I’m sure they were not pleased with how they played in non-conference play, but then they go on the road to GW in triple overtime and came out with a win.

“A win like this [one over Fordham] can often propel us to continue to get better and better and to be ready to play in the next one against Richmond on Saturday.”