Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Furman ends Cats' Streak

As Davidson was tied with Furman at halftime at 33, the Wildcats knew that at least one streak was going to come to an end. This season, the Wildcats had not won a game where they weren’t leading at halftime. They also hadn’t lost a conference game in almost two years, a streak of 27 games that led the nation for active D-I squads. As time wore down in the second half, a Wildcat deficit of two points slowly grew to nine at the four-minute mark, as Davidson seemed unable to hit open shots or force turnovers on the defensive end. This trend has been a familiar one since the last publication of the Davidsonian with the only Wildcats’ D-I victories coming against Wofford and the Citadel, as they stumbled to a 9-6 overall record and 3-1 in the Southern Conference. Davidson mounted a comeback to pull the game to within three points, but several missed shots on the offensive end put the final nails in the coffin, and the Furman crowd began celebrating their upset of 70-66. The 27-game conference winning streak was broken, one game shy of setting the school record.
After a start with incredible victories over St. Joseph’s, Massachusetts, and Missouri, perhaps only one word can sum up the season so far: inconsistent. The Wildcats dropped tough losses to Syracuse and Illinois-Chicago after playing both teams close throughout most of the contests. They were then dealt a critical loss at North Carolina as fans’ initial hopes of a possible at-large bid to the NCAA tournament went down the drain. “We are normally a team that stays in the center of the ring and keeps fighting,” said Coach McKillop after the 82-58 loss to the Tar Heels. “Tonight I felt like we were on the ropes too much.”
The Wildcats have shown flashes of brilliance as players like Boris Meno ’08 found his rhythm for grabbing boards, leading the team in rebounds for seven straight games going into Saturday’s loss at Furman. They proved Southern Conference domination in the beginning of January as they embarrassed division-rivals Wofford and The Citadel at Belk Arena by a combined score of 165-111 for an average victory margin of 27 points. Kenny Grant ‘06 hit a career-high 4 three pointers against Wofford and then added three more three nights later. Brendan Winters ’06 combined for 35 points and 10 rebounds in the routs. He also continues to lead the Southern Conference, and ranks in the top 25 nationally, in free throw shooting percentage with 93.2%.
But as Coach McKillop has always reiterated: "I think we’re right in the midst of a conference that can present you problems any night of the week." The Wildcats had seemed to have been able to handle those problems for 27 straight regular-season contests and a windy Saturday afternoon in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina looked to be another notch on the board. It was anything but.
Furman came out firing in the first half, as they shot 41.9% from the field behind the impressive performance of Robby Bostain, who finished with 18 points for the Paladins. Davidson was unable to pull away as they could not seem to string together many successive scoring possessions. Furman turned a nine-point deficit into a three-point lead thanks to a 15-4 run near the end of the half. Davidson responded with a Jason Morton ’06 three, but the Paladins kept maintained a tie going into halftime. Like all close halftime games in the last month, Davidson came out strong but quickly found themselves in a war of attrition: trading baskets and getting entangled in questionable calls. Thanks to hot shooting from the outside by Furman, the Wildcats found themselves down by as many as 9 with four minutes remaining. But with under a minute remaining and the Wildcats down five, Grant pushed a steal ahead to Winters who cut the game to three and gave Davidson new hope. Three points was the closest Davidson would get, however, as a steal attempt by Grant turned into a foul and Furman was able to keep it a two-possession game on free-throws.

1 comment:

Will said...

"Only one word can describe the 'Cats: inconsistent."

Isn't it you that said consistency was not something to strive for?