Saturday, February 03, 2007

Meno finds his touch, Richards battles for his life, Steph gets on TV

I had a bad feeling yesterday. As the pep band played their familiar tune and the Wildcats jogged to their locker room at halftime, I had a bad feeling. Davidson trailed UNC-Greensboro by four at halftime, and yet somehow the gap felt wider. The situation felt just like January 20th when Davidson trailed Appalachian State by 7 at halftime. I felt like the Wildcats were still one step behind. For all of the fundamentals and great coaching and hard work and incredible athleticism, I felt like we Davidson fans were overestimating this team.

Somewhere in the second half, this team decided to prove me wrong. In one eight-second sequence late in the second half, Stephen Curry hit an incredible three-point shot to extend the Davidson lead to nine points. He then raced down the court anticipating a long pass, intercepted it, and raced back up the court eyeing the three-point stripe. He hit another one. UNC-Greensboro was effectively dead.

The story of this game goes far beyond Stephen Curry, however. Jason Richards put up an equally remarkable performance as he took the beating of his lifetime taking the ball right at the heart of the Spartans frontcourt. Richards remembered the App State game and he knew that Davidson could not get comfortable in shooting three-pointers in the last seven minutes of the contest, no matter their lead. Although he had already picked up several charging fouls on the game, Richards never backed down from his attack. He only made it better. By manipulating his body around the defenders, Richards was able to draw some blocking fouls and get himself in position for easy layups.

The other remarkable story of this game involved the seemingly abrupt coming-of-age of Boris Meno. Although he has developed into an effective shot-blocker and rebounder throughout the season, Meno's offensive capabilities have been in flux all season. Against the Spartans, Meno found himself with opportunity after opportunity to score easy baskets inside. He hit his first nine shots and finished the game with 20 points. From the stands, it seemed as if Meno was finally learning the steps to effective inside manuevering, as he continually used a second step to get under his defender and create a short layup opportunity. Instead of moving away from the basket or forcing a tough hook jumper, Meno seemed comfortable in attacking the glass and making the ball bounce right in. While this might seem obvious and inane for me to be saying about a 6'8" starter, those who have seen Boris Meno know why this game seemed to be such an accomplishment.

It is hard to really believe that Davidson has escaped from its fate of being a well-coached team that just isn't athletic enough to beat everyone all the time. I have to believe, however, that this team wants to escape. This team wants to overcome a few stereotypes on the way. White guys can jump, and be quick and dunk the ball. Black guys can be smart and coachable and hard-working. Davidson can win the Southern Conference in an odd year. Welcome to February, we have 24 days and counting.

**photo by Richard Shayegan**

No comments: