Saturday, March 18, 2006

Glass Slipper Shattered

The Davidson Wildcats were so close to pulling off the miracle in the corn fields yesterday. The only problem was that Gene Hackman (Thad Matta look-a-like) was coaching on the other bench and pulled off quite a comeback.

Davidson was leading by four at halftime when Ohio State seemed to wake up in the paint and their three-pointers started to fall. Terence Dials got away with moving picks as he just moved defenders with his large body around the court.

The key to the first half was Davidson's aggressive attitude in the paint. They challenged the Buckeyes to leave one man on Ian Johnson and he burned them, baby hook after baby hook. Unfortunately for the Cats, they were unable to take advantage of a 1-14 OSU performance from behind the arc by going 2-11 3PT on their side and missing several open layups. Although Davidson completely dominated the first half, they were only up by four at the break.

The outside shooting woes continued for the Wildcats in the second half as both teams struggled to extend any sort of lead. After two consecutive Buckeye three-pointers, Davidson found itself down by three points for the first time in a long while, and the Ohio State crowd found their voice. The game was over.

Although Davidson could have sufficiently mounted a comeback to make it a single possession ballgame, several factors were now strongly against them.

-Several no-calls had many Davidson players frustrated at the referees and defensive possessions seemed to be debate matches more than tough basketball

-The Buckeyes found their range from the outside which opened up Dials to have a single man on him for rebounding situations. His second chance putbacks were the Bucks' biggest points.

-When down by 6 or 7 points with three or four minutes remaining, Davidson reverted to its losing formula. Go for defensive slamdunks (resulting in easy Ohio State baskets), and trying to jack three-pointers. The nervousness of the Wildcat seniors was palpable and it seemed like they were the ones with so much to lose. Leaving its gameplan, Davidson was unable to extend the game against a poor free-throw shooting team, and instead gave up easy baskets inside.

Leaving the game, every Davidson fan felt legitimately sad. Our performance hadn't surprised anyone and we all knew what this team was capable of. These seven Davidson seniors left the court knowing that they had upped the ante on an already strong basketball program.

Davidson students watched the game yesterday from multiple large venues and an entire community rallied around the spunk of 15 players, 5 coaches, 3 managers, 2 sports information employees, 2 radiomen, 2 student writers, 2 promotion directors, many brothers, wives and cousins, best friends, girlfriends, long-time supporters, first-year supporters, 45 students that had been up for hours, 1 post office lady, 3 faculty members, 1 school president and 14 pep banders. For 2 hours, we all traveled into the middle of the corn fields in Dayton, OH to believe in something that we weren't supposed to have. Davidson was not supposed to win. That's what the 15 seed means. As we check this morning we are faced with pictures of Northwestern St. and Bradley. They accomplished what we were unable to.

But in the end, we still have what every team dreams about. We all have the memory of where we were on that day. The halftime feeling that our school could become famous. The solidarity of person that comes only from the mutual respect shared for strangers who humped it to Dayton together, or who crowded into Commons to cheer for a team they knew was special. This is sport. For all who might forget, this is why we play and this is why it's important.

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