DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP) The Davidson Wildcats were picked to finish 12th in the Atlantic 10 conference.
This Saturday night they'll have a chance to play for at least a share of the regular season conference title when they visit Duquesne - not bad for a team in its first year in the A-10 after moving up from the less competitive Southern Conference.
Tyler Kalinoski had 22 points on senior night, Jack Gibbs had 15 points and eight assists and Davidson routed Virginia Commonwealth 82-55 on Thursday for its eighth straight win. The 27-point loss was the worst in the coach Shaka Smart era at VCU.
Jordan Barham added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Wildcats (22-6, 13-4 Atlantic 10), who pulled back into a first-place tie with Dayton with one game remaining for both teams.
It was a resounding win for Davidson, considered a bubble team as the NCAA Tournament approaches.
''This is a big statement for us,'' Kalinoski said. ''It's a huge win for our program.''
Coach Bob McKillop admitted he doesn't know what to think about this team anymore.
''I'm still shocked,'' McKillop said when asked if this team has surpassed expectations. ''They shock me every day. They shock me the way they come to practice every day and they want to get better. They are not content. There is a quiet confidence with a balance of humility, which is quite a combination of character traits.''
Meanwhile, the struggles continue for VCU (21-9, 11-6), which has lost three straight games including two last week to fall out of the AP top 25.
Smart admitted after the game he's a little concerned with his team's drop off in play and that things need to change soon.
''We did a better job of disrupting them the first time around'' in a 71-65 win in January, Smart said. ''There was no disruption tonight. They did pretty much what they wanted to do.''
The Wildcats shot 11 of 26 from 3-point range; while the Rams were 1 of 15.
VCU came into the game forcing more than 16 turnovers a game, but Davidson had little problem beating the ''havoc'' full-court press and their ball movement in half court sets gave the Rams fits.
In fact, it was Davidson that won the turnover battle, forcing 16 VCU turnovers while committing just 12.
''We attacked the attacker,'' Kalinoski said. ''It set the tone for us; we were able to put them on their heels.''
Not that anyone should be surprised.
Davidson came into the game first in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio and the nation's seventh-highest scoring team.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 12-2 lead before extending the lead to 19 at halftime.
Gibbs was the catalyst for the Wildcats, slicing through the Rams defense and finding teammates for open 3-pointers. Brian Sullivan had three 3-pointers in the first half and the Wildcats were 6 of 13 from beyond the arc. Sullivan had 11 points. Gibbs added six rebounds and four steals, helping control the tempo of the game.
''The performance of our players was magnificent,'' McKillop said. ''That is as fine of a performance from start to finish that we have ever had at Belk Arena.''
The Rams could never cut the lead below 15 in the second half.
Davidson increased its lead to 74-49 late in the second half behind a dunk by Peyton Aldridge off an offensive rebound.
Terry Larrier led the Rams with 12 points.
VCU: The Rams didn't help themselves at the free throw line, finishing just 12 of 24.
Davidson: The Wildcats dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Rams 41-32.
SPEEDO GUY: A Davidson college student wearing only a skimpy Speedo and a black bowtie stood behind the basket dancing while VCU attempted foul shots early in the game. It seemed to work as VCU was 2 of 7 from the foul line before police escorted the student from the gym when he refused to put on more clothing. Fans booed as an officer escorted him from the gym.
VCU: Hosts George Mason on Saturday night.
Davidson: Hosts Duquesne on Saturday night.