ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Sometimes he’d burst into the lane and spin off a defender. Other times he’d pivot and pump fake to get his defender in the air for an easy bucket.
Once during the second half of Monday’s Southern Conference tournament final, De’Mon Brooks switched directions and reversed a layup.
However Brooks got to the basket, College of Charleston couldn’t stop the Wildcats’ junior forward with his bevy of post moves. And in part because of Brooks’ game-high 24 points, Davidson topped the Cougars 74-55 to win its 12th conference title under Bob McKillop and earn an automatic berth in next week’s NCAA tournament.
After playing just 23 minutes because of foul trouble in the semifinals Sunday, Brooks came out hungry Monday. The junior forward posted 13 points in the first half on 5-of-9 shooting.
But he also had another driving factor. His mother couldn’t travel to the tournament because of illness, and he dedicated his MVP performance to her after the game.
“I talk to her every day before the game and after the game. It breaks her heart not to be here,” Brooks said. “She never misses a game. I just thought about her and she just told me to go out and play my hardest and that’s what I did tonight.”
Charleston’s Trent Wiedeman had his hands full in the paint against Brooks. Wiedeman usually drew Brooks duty and rarely got help on a double team despite Brooks being the only post player on the floor for Davidson most of the first half.
Brooks, last year’s conference player of the year, had trouble finding his shot midway through the conference season. But on a night when conference player of the year Jake Cohen was relegated to the bench again with foul trouble, Brooks turned his game on.
“He was outstanding,” Cohen said. “We thought they were going to double him and he just kept scoring and scoring. We just kept feeding him. He was so hot you just got to get him the rock and he was doing great things with it.”
The Wildcats (26-7) went up by as many as 12 points in the first half while Charleston struggled from the field. The Cougars (24-10) drew within five in the final two minutes of the half, but the Wildcats capped a 47-percent shooting half with a buzzer-beater off the glass by JP Kuhlman, who finished with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
Not helping the Cougars was Andrew Lawrence’s poor shooting. The guard went 5-for-15 for 19 points in the game.
Davidson beat Charleston in both of their regular-season matches by an average of 12.5 points. It may also be the last time the two teams play for some time because the Cougars will join the Colonial Athletic Association next year.
Despite the nation’s longest active winning streak at 17 games, Davidson had to win the tournament championship to make the NCAA tournament. Knowing it was a do or die game, McKillop eased the tension in the locker room by posing a simple question.
“I said to the guys, ‘We have an option,’ ” McKillop said. “ ‘We could be sitting at home in our dorm room watching this game on television like so many other schools are doing, or we could be playing this game. Where do you want to be?’ And immediately, there was a sense of relief.”