The victory marked the Wildcats seventh in a row as they remained a perfect 8-0 in the SoCon and 12-7 overall. East Tennessee State dropped its fourth straight, falling to 6-13 on the season and 2-7 in the league. Three of those four losses have been by a combined eight points.
"You can see why ETSU has won two consecutive SoCon titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament," said Davidson head coach Bob McKillop. "Bartow does a terrific job with that team and despite their record, they came out and played like they were competing for a championship."
The Wildcats held a lead of as many as 12 points midway through the second half, but the Bucs ran off nine unanswered points to cut the advantage to three, 48-45, with 6:26 to play. Over the last six minutes, junior guard Tim Smith (Newport News, Va.) dropped in 15 of the final 17 ETSU points, bringing his team within a point on his third three-pointer of the contest, 63-62, with just two ticks remaining on the clock.
Forced to foul, ETSU put Brendan Winters on the line for two with less than a second remaining. After missing the first, Winters purposely missed the second and time expired on the rebound.
Smith, the SoCon's leading scorer, was responsible for half of the ETSU points, scoring 31 on 11-of-24 from the field. Winters netted 20 points for the Wildcats, while contributing five rebounds and five assists. Davidson's Logan Kosmalski tallied a double-double, adding 16 points and a team-best 12 rebounds.
"Tim Smith is arguably one of the best players in the region if not the country," commented McKillop. "He is just so difficult to guard."
Buccaneer junior forward Dillion Sneed (Chicago, Ill.) pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds while sophomore guard Travis Strong (Memphis, Tenn.) scored 10 points for ETSU in the loss.
Thanks to a zone defense employed by ETSU, Davidson shot one of its worst field-goal percentages (.350) this year. The Wildcats made only one of its first 11 buckets from the floor, missing eight straight three-pointers and opening the contest down 15-4 at the 10:27 mark of the first half. The 'Cats turned it around, however, hitting their next four shots in a 10-0 run.
The Bucs maintained their lead, extending it to as many as eight before the end of the half. Davidson hung around, thought, and a Jason Morton triple at the buzzer tied the game at 33 as the teams headed to the locker rooms.
A Kosmalski jumper to open the second stanza gave the Wildcats their first lead of the contest, 33-31. Davidson used a 17-3 run that began late in the first half to go on top by 10, 43-33, with 14:36 remaining. Smith then put on a show while the 'Cats went cold from the field, connecting on only six of their final 23 shot attempts.
Each team racked up 37 rebounds, meaning the Wildcats have still not been outrebounded by a SoCon opponent in 19 consecutive games.
With the win, McKillop became the Southern Conference all-time leader for league victories with his 136th conference win. Davidson also won its 13th straight conference game in Belk Arena, a victory made sweeter by McKillop's notable achievement.
The Bucs return to action as they host Appalachian State on Saturday at 4 p.m. from Memorial Center in Johnson City, Tenn.