Friday, January 26, 2007

The J-Rich Game

"There's just something about J-Rich."

My mom repeated this line over and over when she called me on Tuesday night to talk about Davidson's come-from-behind 101-92 win over Georgia Southern. Jason Richards had just recorded a career-high 32 points, 20 of which had come in the first half. At the nine minute mark in the first half, Jason hit a layup. He would go on to score every single basket (14 points) that the Wildcats produced in the next 5 minutes as Georgia Southern attempted to pull away.

For a point guard who is second in the nation in assists (7.9 apg), the ability to consistently put up double digits in points means that the Wildcats are imposing their gameplan on their opponents. Or at least scoring a whole lot of points.

Coming into this season, Richards knew that this Wildcat team was his to lead. He still had a sour taste in his mouth after last year's loss against Ohio State, a loss in which several of his turnovers sparked the Buckeyes' second half run to victory.

This year, Jason has shown himself to be both the sparkplug and the engine on a team that is full of hype. Whether it's Stephen Curry putting up soft jumpers, Max Paulhus Gosselin rejecting shots on the fast break or Will Archambault hitting threes from out-of-bounds, this team has a lot of highlight reel players. Sometimes Jason Richards would rather you not always look at his replays.

Against Appalachian State, Richards kept pushing to the Mountaineers to the brink of their mental patience. Whether it was driving the ball to the lane and drawing the foul or constantly being physical with the man he was guarding, Richards knows each step of the dramatic performance that he weaves on the basketball court.

Some of his opponents think Richards plays cheap. Opposing fans might call him dirty. Richards knows that there are 13 players out on the court at any one time. He doesn't see the referees as agents of evil, but only what they are: regular people that are trying to call the game right. At the end of the day, Richards takes what they give him (and sometimes even what they don't) and it is really beginning to fluster his opponents. Richards' ability to distribute the ball, put himself on the free throw line, and hit clutch shots from nearly anywhere on the court, has led to one of the best seasons in recent memories for a Davidson point guard.

Maybe there is just something about J-Rich.

When the Wildcats face Western Carolina on Saturday, they will be looking for their ninth conference win of the season and for Bob McKillop's 300th win of his career. The Wildcats only home loss last year came at the hands of the Catamounts and they are hoping to exact some revenge. Western will be playing without the services of Kyle Greathouse who was seriously injured in an accident earlier this week.

In Tuesday's win over Georgia Southern, Davidson forward Thomas Sander had a breakout game with 19 points and eight rebounds. The junior from Cincinnati had been struggling of late, averaging only 7.5 points and 3 fouls in the last two games.

The Wildcats overcame a halftime deficit of nine points and a first half hole of 14 points en route to their victory over the Eagles. The only comeback from a larger deficit this season came in the opener against Eastern Michigan when the Wildcats came back from 16 down to win it.

The last time that the Wildcats lost to any sort of animal mascot was back in November against the Missouri Tigers. Since then, they have beaten the Phoenix, the Bobcats, the Broncos, the Cougars, the Terriers, the Bulldogs, and the Eagles. Davidson hopes to keep it going against the Catamounts.

**photo by Richard Shayegan (**

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