Saturday, March 03, 2007

Surprise! Davidson wins Championship

Davidson's second SoCon tournament championship in as many years did not come as easily as many had hoped. The Wildcats overcame adversity in the forms of early game foul trouble to Jason Richards '08, strong shooting by Charleston's frontcourt, and a raucously biased crowd that registered one of the highest recorded decibel mark in Coliseum history.

In the end, Davidson prevailed by not giving up. The Wildcats refused to be intimidated by clutch plays by their opposition or the hostile environment produced by a stadium two-thirds filled with Charleston natives. Their 72-65 earned them yet another conference championship and a bid to the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years.

With five minutes left in the game, the Wildcats found themselves down by three to Charleston after David Lawrence hit a three-pointer that brought the house down.

The College of Charleston had not been to the NCAA tournament since 1999 and the hometown crowd was hell-bent on pulling their Cougars through to one more magical victory.

Davidson responded by staying in their system. At a time when natural adrenaline would dictate a forced play, Richards calmly found Stephen Curry '10 for the game-tying three. Boris Meno '08 gave the Wildcats the lead on the next possession and then Curry forced a steal and Richards found a wide-open Thomas Sander.

With the momentum firmly back in the Wildcats favor, Davidson seemed poised to weather one final push by the Cougars. That push came after Phillip McCandies cut the Davidson lead to two with under two minutes remaining.

McKillop called a timeout to set up a play to keep the Wildcats ahead. From the top of the key, Meno found a back-cutting Richards who finished with an easy layup. The Cougars never recovered.

"The play was actually supposed to go to Stephen [Curry]," McKillop said afterwards. "But Boris [Meno] and Richards made the right reads and the backcut came open. That play showed us that our system really works."

As the final buzzer sounded, the team rushed to the center of the court in celebration. The energy and excitement was emblematic of this team's spirit all season.

"Last year was fun, but this was really special for us," Meno said. "This was a better experience in winning."

Curry finished with 29 points in the contest and was named as the tournament's MVP. Richards also made the media's all-tournament team.

With Davidson's fourth tournament title in ten years, Bob McKillop surpassed Lefty Driesell for most NCAA tournament appearances while coaching at Davidson. Being the second youngest team in all of the NCAA, Davidson achieved the unthinkable. They ran through the conference season, they won games on the road, and they beat the giant in his own lair.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article Will. You truly are a wildcat fan at heart and it really shows in your great words of our fellow Wildcats.