Coach thrilled by Wildcats’ defense

Kansas guard Travis Releford steals from Davidson's Nik Cochran (12) in the second half Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

? Davidson coach Bob McKillop was beaming about his team’s defensive effort following Monday’s 80-74 victory over No. 12 Kansas.

“That’s the mark of becoming a good team, when we struggle to shoot,” McKillop said. “We missed shot after shot after shot, but we didn’t hang our head and carry it into the defensive end. That’s the joy for me as the coach tonight.”

The coach’s defensive game plan for KU included double-teaming the Jayhawks’ big men when they received the ball inside.

“(KU coach) Bill (Self) has mentioned on a number of occasions how he’s concerned about turnovers, and we wanted to try to put them in positions where they had to make passes,” McKillop said. “We felt that the three-point shooters were very good ones, but were streaky ones, and if we could get them to move their feet a little bit … I thought our guys did a pretty good job of running at the shooters and making them move their feet.”

The Jayhawks made only 26 percent of their three-pointers (six of 23), their second-worst three-point percentage of the season.

McKillop also made an adjustment to limit KU junior Travis Releford’s defensive impact. Because he has four guards who can play both point guard and shooting guard, McKillop alternated his point guards so that Releford couldn’t wear down one offensive player.

Another significant factor for Davidson in the second half was turnovers. After turning it over 12 times in the first half, the Wildcats had no giveaways after halftime.

“We call them soccer dribbles, when you try to dribble between two defenders,” McKillop said. “It’s like when you watch your little kid play soccer, and he tries to kick the ball between two guys. … We had too many soccer dribbles in the first half.”

Davidson also made 18 of 21 free throws in the second half (86 percent). The Wildcats came into the game third in the nation in free-throw shooting at 80 percent.

“Our guys are really confident about that,” McKillop said. “It’s really interesting how you get to the line, and all of a sudden, it makes your other shots feel a little bit more comfortable.”

Davidson’s players said that they didn’t watch film of the 2008 KU-Davidson Elite Eight match-up, which KU won, 59-57.

Guard Nik Cochran still said he and his teammates had “seen that a bunch of times.”

“That’s a little extra motivation,” Cochran said, “and knowing that we can play at this level.”

McKillop complimented the crowd, saying he could tell KU had great fans.

“It was just a basketball atmosphere. This is as pure as it gets,” McKillop said. “And to win in this environment is very special.”