March 12, 2015

The last time Davidson was ranked, Stephen Curry was the nation's leading scorer in his final season with the perennial Southern Conference powerhouse.

The program hasn't had much trouble adjusting in its transition to the Atlantic 10.

The No. 24 Wildcats begin their A-10 tournament campaign as the top seed Friday as they look to extend their win streak to 10 in Friday's quarterfinal matchup with ninth-seeded La Salle.

Davidson (23-6) last enjoyed national prominence when Curry averaged 28.6 points during 2008-09, with a No. 22 ranking in the Dec. 15 poll.

The Wildcats have reached the NCAA Tournament twice since Curry's departure, gaining berths in 2011-12 and 2012-13, though neither of those teams won a game in the NCAAs.

Davidson seems to be at an entirely different level this season thanks to conference player of the year Tyler Kalinoski and a 3-point shooting attack that is among the best in the nation and tops in the A-10 at 40.1 percent. Bob McKillop, who has coached Davidson since 1989, says the move to the new conference has been invigorating.

"This has really energized me and made me feel so much younger, like I've taken a new job," he told the Atlantic 10's official website. "What a breath of fresh air it is but it's an extraordinary challenge and it has been the whole year. So I feel very energized and inspired by this new job that I have."

Kalinoski has been the catalyst, averaging 17.9 points while making half of his shots in this nine-game streak that is the school's longest since a 13-game run last season. He scored a career-high 32 on Saturday as Davidson shot a season-high 61.5 percent in a 107-78 rout at Duquesne that clinched the regular-season title.

Three other Wildcats besides Kalinoski (16.9) average double digits in points. Jack Gibbs is at 16.0, Brian Sullivan 13.1 and Jordan Barham 11.7.

Sullivan scored a season-high 28 points and Barham added 18 in a 77-69 win at La Salle on Feb. 14, in which Davidson shot 50.9 percent. The Wildcats closed on a 13-4 run in a contest that featured 11 lead changes.

The Explorers (17-15) limited opponents to 41.3 percent in the regular season to rank third in the conference, though they know from last month how much of a challenge the Wildcats present. Davidson leads the nation with a 1.81 assist-to-turnover ratio.

"I'll tell you some of the things that make them special," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "They score a lot of points; No. 1 scoring team in the league. But when you play fast, you're bound to have some turnovers. They are a team that plays fast and never loses the ball. They have five, six, seven guys who are legitimately good 3-point shooters, so I think they have way more good shooters than anyone else."

La Salle advanced with Thursday's 76-69 win over Massachusetts. Jordan Price scored 28 points to match a school record for this event as the Explorers avenged two regular-season defeats to the Minutemen.

Price, a transfer from Auburn, finished the regular season second in the A-10 at 17.3 points per game and second in foul shooting percentage to Gibbs (87.9 to 80.1). The Explorers guard scored 22 in last month's matchup.

The winner faces VCU or Richmond in Saturday's semifinals.

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