Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WMU upsets 25th-ranked Wildcats

Photo by Tim Cowie

A national ranking. A stirring story in the Charlotte Magazine. The optimism could not have been as ripe as it was at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

But everything quickly came crashing back down to earth as the Davidson Wildcats fell to Western Michigan, 83-76. Davidson trailed from the very beginning as the Broncos shot a blazing 12-22 from the three-point line. Derrick Drews hit five of those threes to finish with a team-high 18 points.

Stephen Curry proved to be a non-factor for many key moments of the game as he was hampered by foul trouble. Davidson was whistled for 24 total fouls, but the most important one came in the final minutes. With the Wildcats mounting a late comeback on the shoulders of Curry and Richards, Stephen was whistled for a foul away from the ball at the top of the key. It was the end of a series of dubious fouls on Curry, the first of which came on a charge after Curry made a steal in the first half. Curry finished the game with 25 points on 9-16 shooting (5-11 from three land).

Throughout the game, the refs continually disrupted play with ticky-tack fouls away from the basket, and at one point Davidson had five second half fouls before Western Michigan was whistled for one.

Davidson's player of the game was definitely Jason Richards, who finished with a personal season-best 23 points. He played a full 40 minutes and also tallied eight assists on the contest. Throughout the game, Richards seemed to be the only Wildcat with his head screwed on straight. He stayed home on defense and continually attacked the Broncos at the heart of their defense.

Davidson was largely beaten because of their inability to stop WMU's penetration. The Broncos beat Davidson off the dribble and were able to kick out for open threes or take it to the hoop for the finish. On offense, the Wildcats were plagued by several shooting droughts and the lack of any offensive potency from players outside of Curry or Richards.

The 25th ranked Wildcats should be given credit, however, for not quitting despite being outshot for most of the game. With 5:14 remaining, Davidson found themselves down by nine points at 67-58. But Stephen Curry connected on a layup, Jason Richards hit a pair of free throws and a three, and then Curry converted on a jumper in a transition opportunity off a steal. Thirty seconds later, Curry hit a three pointer to cut the game to 71-70.

But then David Kool answered for WMU to extend the lead to 74-70 and Curry then fouled out on the next defensive possession. Davidson was unable to hit threes in the final minute despite several opportunities.

Markedly absent from the final stat sheet was Will Archambault. Despite being second on the team last year in three-pointers behind Stephen Curry, Archambault has done relatively little so far this season as he was held scoreless tonight. His counterpart at the three position, Max Paulhus Gosselin, finished 1-5 from the field, but did come up with several big stops and rebounds.

This loss will be a tough pill to swallow for Wildcat fans who were just getting used to being the nation's small-school wonder. Western Michigan seemed to win because of dubious officiating and spectacular shots. But I'm sure that many of Davidson's opponents have whined about the same thing over the last few seasons. This is only the second Davidson loss to a non-BCS school since February of 2006.

During the game broadcast, John Kilgo used every opportunity he could to mention Davidson's national ranking. It might be his last opportunity to do that in quite a while.

No comments: