Thursday, November 29, 2007

Taking the representation too far

Throughout these first few weeks of the season, Davidson College has emerged on many people's radars around the country because of the men's basketball program. A quick glance at a USA Today or ESPN.com or the bottom line of any sports show would find Davidson highly praised for its academics and highly ranked for its athletics. In fact, I have to write an article for this weekend about the way that Davidson basketball's media exposure has been good for the College as well.

While I certainly accept the reality that if Davidson makes a run in the NCAA Tournament or continues to make headlines, the admission applications would rise, alumni giving might be sparked and the athletic program's potential recruits would be awed. However, there is a part of this premise that I don't particularly feel comfortable with. How can a group of fifteen guys completely represent an academic institution through their shooting touch and defensive aggressiveness?

Are you really telling me that there are so many financial, social, and potentially academic consequences riding on a game-tying three point attempt by Jason Richards in the closing seconds of a basketball contest? We have all been suckered into accepting and proclaiming the affirmative because we know that Jason will hit it...and because, as far as we can tell, this equation only points to the good. If the three rims out, we haven't lost anything in the attempt. Sure let's put all of our identity on the shoulders of this basketball team.

However, I am more concerned at the larger premise surrounding this issue. That is, I believe that we currently place way too much emphasis on representatives of a larger group or institution, whether in sports or otherwise.

For example, are Davidson students better basketball players on the whole because their team beat the Appalachian State team last Saturday. No...I wouldn't say that. Are North Carolina or Florida or Ohio State or USC the best universities in the country because of the success of their athletic programs? Not necessarily. On the flip side, are Davidson students all punks because of the inappropriate actions of a few in post-game scuffle in downtown Charlotte? Definitely not.

However, all of these cases have been made implicitly. My friends and I definitely left ASU's Holmes Center on Monday with an air of invincibility and swagger, while most of our student peers in yellow were hanging their heads. Did either of us have anything to do with that game? No way. Curry's 38 points and App's offensive ineptitude was not a reflection of the relative merit of our collective fandom. Yet both groups seemed to accept it to be so.

This is a similar situation with these athletic powerhouses that rule the NCAA championships from sport to sport. Is that institution, and its fans by proxy, that much better than any other college or university? Not necessarily, it just has more athletic money which means better facilities, higher recruiting budgets and more perks for prospective athletes. If I decide to don a UNC sweatshirt one day and watch every game as they advance to another Final Four, am I an inherently better fan or person than I would have been if I would have kept my Davidson sweatshirt on? Of course not. But we've come to let our teams reflect us. Their wins and losses give or take away power from us in relation to one another. UNC's win over Davidson does not make my friend at Chapel Hill better than me, nor would it make me better than him had the Wildcats converted on a few easy layups and dunks. While you might think that my terms are preposterous and that no fans really accept them, I would advise you to look a little closer under the surface. We all love to compare ourselves with each other and athletic superiority, while taken lightly on the surface, forms more of the core of supporters' self-identities than we acknowledge.

Finally, I'd like to mention how irresponsible over-representation can be in terms of bad behavior. When Michael Vick was arrested for dog fighting, there were white people who, publicly or privately, made judgments in their head about what they considered to be the violent nature of all black people. Conversely, when outspoken groups like PETA blew the issue out of proportion, many black people pointed to America's white population and accused them of only being concerned about "dogs and yoga."

Last week, Davidson Dean of Students Tom Shandley wrote an email to the entire student body, asking them to represent Davidson in a positive manner at this weekend's Duke game. The email included a letter from a concerned alum saying that Davidson students were misrepresenting the college by being intoxicated and getting in a scuffle with several older UNC fans after the game. The alum's letter condemned the Davidson student body for being immature and accused "Davidson of exhibiting hostile behavior never before seen...not even from Duke." While I appreciate the fact that the involved Davidson students were in the wrong, and I also acknowledge the absurdity of this particular alumnus' fervor for tattle-telling (he tried to take a pic of the students on his camera phone), I am most concerned about the language used regarding representation. What does it mean that "Davidson exhibited hostile behavior.."? Since when did the University of Duke become such a haven of violence to which all other violence should be compared (the Davidson alum had children at UNC, hence the Duke reference as a yardstick for all things bad)? How can the actions of such a select few come to essentialize the nature of an entire institution?

I do not intend to come across as naive in this post. If you wear a shirt that says Davidson and you do something that is reprehensible, rightly or wrongly, the institution of Davidson and everyone involved in that institution gets held accountable. That is what people do most of the time. However, I hope that we can all be just a bit more careful with how we understand the difference between individual actions and critiques upon the wider groups that they associate themselves with.

Despite what group representations might infer, I am not overly obsessed with domesticated animals, I am not a violent person nor a drunk, I am not an inferior sports fan to someone from Chapel Hill nor am I better at basketball than the guy sitting behind me in Boone, NC. You should make a judgment about me based upon what I truly am, not just who I cheer for.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Observations from Boone

-My party had a pre-game meal in a nice Greek restaurant right across the street from the arena. The food was really good and we enjoyed eavesdropping on several App Fans conversations about Mountaineer sports. I was dismayed that the restaurant was totally decked out in football stuff without any reference to a winter sport. Then we found a basketball poster in the corner...for the women. No wonder this basketball team has had a hard time becoming a winning program.

-I admit that I was really looking forward to seeing the Holmes Center and experiencing one of the best SoCon basketball environments outside of Charleston or Davidson. But I was pretty disappointed in the Apps for several reasons. First off, they turned off the lights for their pre-game intros which was cool...except for the fact that they turned them off before our intro, which we did in pitch blackness. Then the announcer pronounced Steee-ven Curry which got all of the Davidson fans really riled up. After Steph outscored ASU throughout most of the first half, the announcer started saying Stef-ahhn. What is this, Family Matters? At this point, there is no excuse for any school in the SoCon to pronounce his name wrong. I guess I just didn't believe that the ASU athletic department would stoop so low as to try to rattle him by intentionally mispronouncing his name. That wasn't so classy.

-Appalachian State seems to be having some identity issues when it comes to their success as an athletic program. One poster in a local Subway celebrated the Mountaineers' 2005-2006 D-I Football National Championship. Hey now, I think an A or two might be needed for that one. Also, this year's basketball team media guide has a picture of a 2006-2007 Regular Season Champions ring. First off, who gets rings for winning the regular season and then putting an NIT logo. And second of all, ASU DIDN'T WIN THE REGULAR SEASON! They won the SoCon's North Division and lost as a 2 seed in the conference tournament semis before getting blasted in the play-in round of the NIT. I guess people will buy rings for anything these days.

-This rivalry is probably one of the cleanest amongst SoCon foes. I know that Georgia Southern-CofC has gotten heated over the years and so has Georgia Southern-ASU in football. Every year there are some pretty frustrated CofC fans and overzealous Davidson fans who don't always get along. But I felt like everything was pretty calm in the Holmes Center tonight. The App students and administration did their part to try to rattle Steph, and the Wildcats were very intentional in their silencing of the crowd. It could have gotten uglier than it did.

-It seems like opponents are going to be getting open looks from the corners for the rest of the season. Davidson doubled down on the post and trapped near the perimeter a few times. App. State was very effective in their rotation early on, and they kept the score close by hitting some wide open three-pointers. Thankfully, they cooled off after a while. I guess the defense makes sense most of the time because ASU had untold numbers of missed layups, charges and travels while being doubled in the paint, and several of their players could not hit wide open threes if their life depended on it. But that is something we are giving up right now and it looks like it will continue.

-Davidson hit 12 three-pointers tonight, nine of them coming from Curry (Curry finished with a career-high 38, setting a new Holmes Center record). Some people might worry that we are relying on him too much, but there were a few moments when either Steph wasn't in the game or he was tired and the rest of the offense just sensed that they needed to step up. The Bryant Barr three-pointer to break ASU's late run came as a result of too much defensive attention being spent on Steph. It was a perfect example of how such a great player made his teammates better.

-I was a bit worried about the lack of entry passes that we put into the paint in the first half. Thomas "The General" Sander converted on several nice back-to-the-basket opportunities later on, but our frontcourt struggled during much of the early going. All of the bigs, Sander especially, seemed very tentative about taking their shot. They almost just expected Jeremy Clayton to come swat their shot on every attempt. There were several times where they had open layups or dunks, but their hesitation allowed the defense to recover. One stat that really displayed this tentativeness was FT shooting. Davidson had absolutely none until the final minutes of the game.

-Will Archambault seems to be in the slump of a lifetime. This thing is beginning to get to those proportions where in baseball, players would completely change their pregame rituals, sleep on the other side of the bed or switch the order in which they eat their pregame meal. Coach McKillop didn't force the issue tonight as he allowed Bryant Barr to come in and play the 3 position alongside J-Rich and Stephen. Jason also had a tough game. He missed several open threes and his patented drives seemed to have been a tad off. He was visibly frustrated with his lack of offensive output.

-The biggest part of this game was the fire with which Davidson played. ASU tried to slow the game down and deflate Davidson's emotion by running a 2-3 zone defense, but it ultimately didn't shut us down completely. From the first tip to the final whistle MPG, The Big Cat, Boris and, of course Steph, created loose balls, crashed the boards and answered every run made by the Mountaineers. They pulled out a victory on the road against a very formidable SoCon opponent. That is no small accomplishment for November.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Davidson in EA's March Madness 08

Although they are still wearing the jerseys from 2005-2006 and playing on the old Belk floor with red-painted lanes, the digital Davidson Wildcats in EA's March Madness 08 look pretty good. Especially when they are ranked number 21 in the country. I like the clips of Stephen Curry taking UNCG to task.

Curry featured in ESPN the Magazine

"Daniel Martin couldn't believe his bad luck. He was less than a week into his freshman year at Davidson, and he'd already lost his wallet. Then, Martin spied a post on the campus' lost-and-found eboard: stud soph baller Stephen Curry had found the billfold. 'It made me the envy of my freshman hall.' "

So begins yet another feature on Stephen Curry and the Davidson basketball team. This one appears in this week's ESPN the Magazine. Mag feature writer and Davidson alum AK Clemmons '01 authored the article that pointed out how Davidson is no longer a sleeper team in anyone's eyes.

"Proud peacock today, feather duster tomorrow," Coach McKillop is quoted as saying.

The Davidson Wildcats finished their first week in the national rankings since 1970 with a 1-1 mark, dropping a non-conference matchup at Western Michigan and knocking off North Carolina Central at home.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rossiter's double-double leads Davidson to 2-2

Photo by Tim Cowie

Coming into today's game against North Carolina Central, the 25th-ranked Davidson Wildcats seemed to have more questions than answers about where this 100th season was going. The Wildcats had fallen to unranked Western Michigan on Wednesday night and started the season 1-2.

On the message boards and around the Thanksgiving turkeys Wildcat fans were wondering where the Davidson post game had gone...where was the production of Lovedale/Barr/Archambault?...where was the team's rhythm?...how was Davidson supposed to beat Duke/UCLA/NCSU and earn an at-large bid if they couldn't even lead Western Michigan for more than one minute?

Against NCCU, the Wildcats seemed to take a step forward in answering those questions and becoming a better team overall. The team's bench scored 51 of Davidson's 98 points. The Wildcats doubled the Eagles' offensive rebounding numbers (18:9) and they scored 24 points off of turnovers. Davidson finished with a 98-50 victory in front of 3,412 at Belk Arena.

Before Saturday's game, Coach McKillop told John Kilgo that he led such a "passionate" practice on Thursday morning that he was worried that none of the players would show up at his house for Thanksgiving dinner.

Davidson's first half attack was headed by Thomas Sander who scored seven points early. He finished with 13 points and two steals in just 21 minutes of play. Stephen Curry had a 2-minute spurt where he scored two point baskets on three straight possessions. Curry finished with a team-high 16 points on 6-14 shooting. Jason Richards also played well, tallying four steals and 10 assists against zero turnovers.

The biggest plus from the game, however, was the play of Steve Rossiter, Bryant Barr and Will Archambault. Rossiter, who has been one of the unsung heroes of this program for the last two years, had a very impressive double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds (including 4 offensive). Rossiter contributed huge minutes in Davidson's four-point loss to #1 UNC on the 14th. He is averaging 6.5 points a game and is shooting a team-high 75% from the field.

Bryant Barr also broke out with four three-pointers on 4-7 shooting. While he needs to attempt more two-pointers (21 of his 26 season attempts have come from three land), his ability to hit the outside shot will be crucial in stretching the defense when Curry is taking a breather.

Even the much maligned Will Archambault ended up with a nice stat-line. He started the game cold but finished with 10 points. Archambault had only hit two threes in the past three games and Coach McKillop had spent a lot of practice time to work on Archambault's balance. Even with today's game going the route of the blowout, McKillop stuck with Archambault and helped him get some confidence, as he hit several nice shots and ended up with some big rebounds late in the contest.

The Wildcats used a matchup zone at several moments during the contest. This was an interesting decision after McKillop claimed that his use of the 1-3-1 in two possessions was one of the biggest keys to the Wildcats' loss to UNC. The Wildcats lost several Eagles who found open space after Davidson came with the trap, but Davidson also came up with 15 steals and forced 27 NCCU turnovers. The Wildcats will need to continue their aggressiveness against some very quick opponents in the next week. However, they need to react and recover like they did against UNC instead of the way that they did against WMU.

The Wildcats' next game will be against Appalachian State on Monday night in Boone. The Mountaineers started the season slow with an opening loss at UNC-Charlotte, but they have since recovered to hold a 3-2 record. In their latest win, they knocked off Campbell 71-64. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. The game will be televised on MASN.

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Look, New Links

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday filled with fun and family (and hopefully some reprieve from Wednesday night's setback). I will be traveling to Boone on Monday, but will not be live blogging from either that game or next week's Duke game. I apologize. In the meantime, I thought I would update the site to give it a new feel. You can find labels down the right side that will point you to articles that have the appropriate material. I plan to use more labels in the future (and I might even go back in and relabel a few of the older articles).

I also encourage you to "digg" stories that you find interesting. Just click the button at the end of the post and then paste the URL into the box. If you have never heard of Digg, it's a user-generated news source that allows readers to upload articles, read other people's articles, and then "digg" the ones they like best. The more diggs something gets, the more popular it becomes and the easier it becomes for people to see on the front page. I see it as a great opportunity to get the news of Davidson basketball to more people around the internet.

Here are some new blogs and articles that I found:

This is a blog run by an Appalachian State fan up in Boone. Run through Wordpress, it's got many more features than we have over here at Blogger and it seems to be the final word on everything Appalachian State. I've been really impressed with the several posts that I have seen over there.

Be sure to check out the news from UNC-Greensboro's big man himself, Kyle Hines. His blog is apparently very popular among UNCG fans and college basketball fans around the country. Kyle claims that his "blog has become a weekly topic in some of my classes and even a bedtime story for a few little kids." That's great stuff, Kyle.

Finally, we have an article from the Charlotte Magazine titled, "Lefty, Bob and the Kid." Written by former Davidson history major and Davidsonian editor Michael Kruse, this is the definitive story of anticipation and regional insight for the 2007-08 Davidson basketball season. Kruse tracks the course of Davidson basketball's involvement with the Charlotte community since 1960 and shows how the program is at a tipping point once again. As a feature writer for the St. Petersburg Times, Kruse always incorporates descriptive imagery and parallelism into his storytelling. When he was a student at Davidson, he took a year off after his junior year and traveled around with the men's basketball team writing a book about the Wildcat program. Although Kruse was never able to finish the book, he came into close contact with the character and heartbeat of everything that makes Davidson special. That intimate knowledge truly shines forth in this article.

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.

Davidson heads to Kalamazoo to take on WMU

When the Davidson Wildcats take the floor tonight against the Broncos of Western Michigan, they will be in a pretty unique situation. For the first time since 1970, they will be the focus of an underdog opponent trying to knock off a Top 25 team.

The Wildcats were voted into the Coaches Top 25 poll on Monday, edging out Wisconsin by a mere 5 points.

But while the Wildcats have spent a lot of time focusing on the Big Four of their out-of-conference schedule (#1 UNC, #9 Duke, #1 UCLA, #33 NC State), games at Western Michigan and Charlotte will be tough, must-win tests for Davidson.

Davidson played WMU for the first time ever last year when the Broncos traveled to Belk Arena. Hailing from the MAC conference, WMU played a very physical style of play and overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to make the game interesting in the final minutes. Davidson only hit six field goals in the second half, and the Wildcats needed a late steal from Max Paulhus Gosselin to pull out the victory.

The Broncos are led by 6-7 center Joe Reitz. The undersized big man led all rebounders in last year's matchup with 15, and he has been a big part of WMU's success early this season. Named the MAC Player of the Week last week, Reitz is averaging 15.0 points per game and just over six rebounds a game.

Davidson has been led by the preseason AP All-American sophomore Stephen Curry. Curry leads the team with 25.5 points per game to go along with 11 total rebounds. Jason Richards is once again on a tear through the national record books as he averaging 9.0 assists per game, with 2:1 assist to turnover ratio.

Although the Wildcats nearly knocked off the nation's best team last Wednesday, they struggled with the bread-and-butter part of their offense: three-point shooting. The team went 4-22 from behind the three-point arc while Curry only managed two trifectas all game.

The biggest Wildcat story of the last week concerns the left hand of Curry. The Charlotte Observer released a story last Friday saying that Curry needed surgery, but that he would wait until the end of the season to get it. The Wildcats should be fully rested for this game, but the Broncos do play very physically (they committed 30 fouls in last year's matchup). We will see if Curry goes out of his way to protect his hand a little bit.

You can find links to Live Stats and Live Audio at Davidson's official athletics web site.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Cats ranked in the Top 25

Many fans didn't think it was possible. Davidson would need to beat one of their BCS conference opponents before the country would rank them. Well, it seems that the Coaches thought that losing by four to UNC was good enough. Davidson is ranked #25 in the Coaches Top 25 poll.

This is the first time since 1970 that the Cats have been ranked in the Top 25. That year, Davidson made it as high as 15 in the old UPI poll. The College of Charleston was the last SoCon team to be ranked as they cracked the Top 25 back in December 2002.

Davidson is the only team in this week's Top 25 who has lost a game, and they are one of four mid-major teams. Gonzaga, Southern Illinois and Butler are the other three (technically Memphis does not come from a BCS conference, but they aren't considered a mid-major by many).

The Wildcats come in at #30 in the AP poll, moving up several spots from last week.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Support needed for more than just the Basketball Team

This is the unabridged version of an article that I wrote for the 11/14/07 issue of The Davidsonian. The article was published as the staff editorial.


“It’s a great day to be a Wildcat!”

That semi-corny exclamation has been pronounced by many of the school’s leaders over the course of this fall semester. With a new president in place, a new financial aid plan that has eliminated loans and a stellar men’s basketball program that has broken onto the basketball scene, Davidson College is taking great pride in its brand right now.

The Wildcat Red and Black gives Davidson students, faculty, staff and alumni something to be proud of as the USA Today proclaimed to the country and the world that Davidson College was a very special place where top-notch academics and top-notch athletics go hand in hand. Men’s basketball has given the college a prime opportunity to convince the whole nation that academics, honor, integrity, teamwork and exceptional athletic accomplishment can all coexist in harmony.

However, not everything is so warm and fuzzy down in the Davidson athletic department. While the student-athletes and the coaches are all smiles about Davidson’s national attention and recognition, the employees that make everything click are being pushed to the max.

As Davidson basketball has attracted more and more fans, the demand for better game operations, brand marketing, media releases, broadcasting technology and overall efficiency has pushed an already underfunded athletic department to its limits.

In the past 10 years, Davidson’s administration has recognized the need to make the college nationally appealing by upgrading campus facilities, investing more in the faculty and making student loans a thing of the past. It is once again time to turn our eyes to athletics.

While every constituent group on campus, from the club sports teams to the Union cafĂ© workers to the sophomores down the hill, can make compelling cases for why the administration should give them more money, it is our opinion that the athletic department’s support staff should be a high priority.

With the descent of the national media on the men’s basketball program, Davidson’s sports information department has had to give less time to the 20 other varsity sports on campus to make sure that all media demands are met. With advertisers and television media outlets calling for Wildcat marketing materials, the athletics department marketing office (which doubles as the head of game operations, merchandise and broadcast technology) has had to enlist the help of an already overworked staff to meet Davidson’s marketing and advertising needs. The athletic ticket office, the physical plant support staff and even the coaching staffs of the athletic teams have all been called upon to go above and beyond their salaries and job descriptions to keep up with the rising tide of men’s basketball hoopla.

At this point, even students have been negatively affected as Fountain Walker has called on the student population to move their cars literally off campus to make room for burgeoning attendance for men’s basketball games.

The college needs to develop a strategic plan to deal with parking issues, understaffed departments and all of the other demands that major college basketball puts on an institution.

This funding should go towards branding Davidson in the sports world and reaping the economic benefits of a basketball team that everyone wants a piece of. The profit margin of this investment would more than recoup the initially diverted funds.

When Appalachian State beat Michigan to start the college football season, the University’s athletic department was swamped with people who wanted a piece of the action. The same thing happened with George Mason a few years ago. Davidson has the opportunity to do that this year and we can’t be caught napping with our pants down.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

WRAL Article on the game

I wrote an article last night for WRAL in Durham. You can read it by clicking here. I will say that I need to improve on that whole "don't use the exact same phrase in consecutive sentences thing." But I'm still getting used to writing on a deadline. And covering teams that I don't like.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wildcats fall to top-ranked Tar Heels 72-68

Photo by Tim Cowie

Once upon a time, Charlotte was the home away from home for the North Carolina Tar Heels. But if tonight's local news coverage was any indication, Charlotte now belongs to the hometown heroes who live right up I-77. Judging from the news segments from CBS, ABC and NBC, this was Davidson's game to win, to lose and to show the country how good they really are. And by the way, they happened to have been playing a really good team from another county. But we don't care about them.

The Wildcats were within one or two shots of beating the top-ranked Tar Heels. But once again, Davidson couldn't break through to the other side and beat one of the giants.

The Wildcats led North Carolina for most of the second half despite shooting 4-22 from three point land. Curry finished with 24 points on 8-22 shooting. The sophomore had two or three drives that will be making Davidson highlight videos for decades to come.

After the game, Coach McKillop presented a different face than the one at the NCAA Tournament last March.

"When you have exciting games like this in November, it's great for college athletics," McKillop said. "I was proud that our team played 40 minutes of basketball tonight."

The Wildats' losses against Ohio State and Maryland in their last three NCAA tournament appearances all came after various runs from their opponents to stretch their leads. On this night, North Carolina had to play catch up as they tried to weather Davidson's storm.

Tyler Hansbrough finished with only 14 points on 3-5 shooting (his lowest shot attempt mark since last year's contest against Gonzaga). His play was limited in the second half due to foul trouble. After drawing an off-the-ball foul, Andrew Lovedale did not back down in a confrontation with Hansbrough and Psycho T was called for a technical.

Ellington proved to be the hero for North Carolina, however. He finished with 20 points including the clinching field goal with under a minute remaining.

Although this game might leave many Wildcats' fans with deep wells of emptiness in their stomachs, Coach McKillop wasn't so quick to denote this game as another failure to break through.

"We fulfilled all of our three goals for each game," McKillop said. "We want to get better, have fun, and play to win. We did all three things tonight."

Davidson certainly made a statement with its fan attendance tonight. The official number was recorded as 19,299, only 701 short of capacity.

"It was definitely a pro-Davidson crowd tonight," Hansbrough said afterward. "They made it pretty intense."

In other notes, Davidson fans should know that Boris Meno was playing with an injured shoulder. He received a cortizone shot before the game.

"When he missed that dunk, I knew it was because of his injury," McKillop said. "I'm not making excuses but we'll look back at that and realize how close we would've been."

Davidson 68 North Carolina 72

This will be the 71st time that North Carolina and Davidson have faced each other with the Tar Heels leading the all-time series 60-11. North Carolina has won 72 of its last 77 season openers, while Davidson has only won two openers since 1996-1997. Many of those losses have come against a team from the ACC.

I am sitting in an elevated press row since Bobcats Arena has a premium of courtside seats. The Charlotte Observer has sent both Cary and Carolina Panther specialist Scott Fowler.

The Wildcats leave the court and Stephen Curry hits his last three-pointer. Hansbrough is down there now doing dunks with a medicine ball. He doesn't seem to be favoring his thumb much at all. The Wildcats will be without the services of freshman walk-on Ben Allison today. The 6-9 product from England has been in street clothes for the last two games.

Bobcats Arena really is quite impressive. I have never been to any other NBA arena recently, but I would think that this place ranks among the best in terms sight angles, club suites and overall appeal.

North Carolina might have the advantage in terms of numbers of fans tonight, but Davidson definitely has the home-court advantage. All of the pre-game announcements, ribbon board ads and jumbotron graphics are Davidson ads. The Davidson students have filled the entire right side of the lower bowl and everyone is wearing red and standing up. There doesn't look to be concentrations of Carolina students in the arena. I wouldn't be surprised if a few Tar Heel fans aren't a little upset that the uppity Wildcats are the home team in a neutral sight game. OK, maybe that was a tad premature, the Tar Heel fans in the upper deck just rocked this place as the Tar Heels entered.
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17:37 D 2 UNC 4
Things started well for Davidson inside as Sander scored a layup on Hansbrough. Both teams' defense have buckled down and forced poor shots. Curry picks up his first foul off the ball. And Hansbrough gets on the scoreboard after taking Boris back door. I'm surprised the Wildcats have attacked the paint so much in the early going. Curry hasn't shot yet.
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17:00 D 5 UNC 4
And there's two quick fouls on Lawson. J-Rich with an old fashioned three point play. This game is being played in the half court right now, which would have most of us surprised since both teams like to run so much.
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14:29 D 7 UNC 6
These refs are calling a lot of fouls early. That's four already on Carolina. Hansbrough is doing his thing on the defensive boards but hasn't gotten too many opportunities on offense yet. Sander is taking him one-on-one. Now it's speeding up a lot. Davidson is missing shots but they are getting so many off of Carolina turnovers. There's the second interior foul on the Wildcats. With the Wildcats' transition game, they definitely are wary about taking it all the way to the basket. They are going to have to hit the pull-up jumpers. Overall, however, UNC's offense seems a bit sluggish despite its size advantage.
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11:46 D 11 UNC 8
The Wildcat double team has messed with Stepheson and Thompson. UNC with another turnover. Unlike with Maryland, they aren't finding the open man. Hansbrough gets to the line for the first time and barely touches rim. He misses both. And both teams are off the mark with the jump shooting. If you told me that we hadn't hit a three and Curry was scoreless with 11:46 remaining, I would not bet that Davidson would be leading at this point in the first half. Carolina has cement in their shooting shoes. We'll see how long that lasts.
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11:19 D 11 UNC 10
UNC is shooting just over 36% from the field and 0-4 from the foul line. But the Wildcats aren't much better.
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9:11 D 19 UNC 13
Oooh, somebody has gotten into the refs ears about how mid-majors make great ratings...even in November. Several questionable calls against Carolina. And Curry with his first three of the game. Wow, the Tar Heels now have seven fouls. Davidson will need to take advantage of the free throws. Davidson is forcing the turnovers left and right. They won't pull away in this game, but they are outplaying Carolina. And that's the third foul Hansbrough has drawn...Carolina in the bonus.
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7:33 D 21 UNC 20
Davidson's nerves have gotten to them a little bit on the offensive end. They have missed several wide open shots badly. Hansbrough has eight points and is getting worked into the offense much more. I would like to see a little more of that wide open play again. UNC's last run froze us a little bit before Curry saved a possession with a bank shot. The Wildcats are substituting very liberally and the eight team fouls are pretty well distributed.
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5:50 D 21 UNC 24
And UNC is looking good. Their defense has the Wildcats really flustered on offense. Every player is half a second away from a closely guarded call. And the Wildcats can't hit runners or threes. Richards out of the game after going 2-7 and then Max badly misses a three. McKillop with a TO. But overall, Roy Williams is probably not pleased with his players' output so far. UNC has only gotten to run in recent minutes and they only hold a three point lead over a team that's shooting 38% from the field.
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3:49 D 28 UNC 28
Davidson needs strong play from Richards to be successful and they really aren't getting it right now. Richards gets called for a walk in the open court and he is visibly frustrated, grabbing his ankles. The Wildcat frontcourt, however, has held their own with Boris and Steve-O. And here comes Curry to take back the lead. They are calling ticky tack fouls on both teams and then getting a little scared when things get too physical. I wouldn't say that it's unfair in anyone's favor so far...but I think both groups of fans probably find it arbitrary.
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1:00 D 31 UNC 38
Oooh, Wildcat zone with Lovedale at the top. But Frasor beats it with a three-pointer. Richards answers on the other end and the zone is still on. Green hits a three this time pushing the Wildcats back to a man to man. Frasor with another big shot. The Heels are finding their touch from mid-range.
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Halftime D 31 UNC 38
The Tar Heels go into the half with plenty of momentum after scoring on 4 of their last 5 possessions. The Wildcats will need to find that interior scoring like they started with...and look for the backdoors which have been successful. For the last few minutes of the half it looked the second half of the Maryland game where everyone was just looking for Curry.

Davidson sign of the day: "I hope this doesn't go to double OT....I have a molecular bio test tomorrow!"

The Wildcats are probably pretty lucky to be only down by seven at this point. They ended the half pretty poorly and are only shooting 13-34, including 2-12 from three. The Tar Heels own a 22-11 advantage in rebounds as Davidson has not attacked the offensive glass at all (only 1 Orebound). Curry has 9 points while Richards has 10. Davidson has forced 11 turnovers including 5 total from Stepheson and Thompson. Most of those came in the first 10 minutes however and the Tar Heels have settled down. Ultimately this has really been a game of the stars. Curry and Hansbrough have been leading their teams' runs, even if they aren't the ones doing the scoring. Curry only sat for 1 minute in the first half while Hansbrough sat for 3. Davidson will need Sander to return strongly as he only played 7 minutes due to two fouls.
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17:04 D 39 UNC 38
Boris Meno with a huge block on Thompson but then Richards called for a charge. Both teams are running a little more now by using defensive rebounds. And guess what, Andrew Lovedale picks a fight with Tyler Hansbrough. And LOVEDALE WINS!!!! Technical on Hansbrough plus the personal gives him two quick ones. And that fires up the Davidson fans as Hansbrough takes a seat.
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13:41 D 43 UNC 40
Curry with a SportsCenter highlight play through the lane. And this is looking like the beginning of the first half. Five fouls on Carolina.
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12:37 D 45 UNC 44
Perhaps a makeup call right there as Curry gets bowled over and then called for a blocking foul. And these missed dunks are killing us. Curry now with three fouls as all the Davidson players surrounded Hansbrough in the paint. This thing is emotional for everyone in the building right now. And I keep hearing Kevin Cary in my ear saying, "and Davidson isn't even playing that well."
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10:46 D 47 UNC 46
Davidson might not win this one in the end, but they've played three-quarters of a game against the #1 team in the country and lead by 1. They won't be written off for lack of performance no matter what happens in the next ten minutes. That's really encouraging. But as McKillop said after last year's NCAA tournament game, we can't just stop with 10 minutes left and declare ourselves the winner, we have to finish it. Carolina is only shooting 2-12 from the floor in the second half but they only trail by 1.

Hansbrough has 14 points so far, but only two in the second half. This foul situation will be really interesting in this final stretch. Neither team has too many fouls on any one player, a testament to both teams' depth. As the season progresses, both Carolina and Davidson will be very successful in their respective leagues because they go so deep.
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8:00 D 52 UNC 54
Danny Green comes up big with a three and an o rebound with a two and follow. That got the Carolina crowd loud. But Hansbrough's third foul quieted them again. Wildcats in the bonus.

And the cameras are capturing that good Sweet Caroline stuff.
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6:26 D 59 UNC 56
Lovedale picks up his fourth after Ginyard sky'd high for an O rebound. Carolina can really jump out of the building. I was just about to write that Curry's been quiet...so much for that. And four fouls on Hansbrough. OMG, is this really going to happen? Six more minutes. If the Wildcats can keep getting to the line with Hansbrough on the bench...we'll see. Carolina can still shoot the ball, though, and they are challenging every rebound.
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5:29 D 61 UNC 61
Curry picks up his fourth on a reach-in and Archambault replaces him. No matter what, Davidson gets respect from this one. Hands down. I am sitting next to Scott Fowler and Harry Pickett from the Charlotte Observer. I love overhearing them working on tomorrow's front page..."If Davidson wins..."
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3:44 D 61 UNC 61
Both teams are struggling on offense without their bigguns (Curry, Hansbrough). This one might just go down to the wire, if Davidson can stay within one or two possessions.

And the announced attendance is 19,299. There isn't an empty seat in this place.
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1:40 D 63 UNC 66
The Wildcats need a big play now. Those missed free throws by Lovedale really hurt. Davidson won't get too many more possessions before they have to foul and UNC has been shooting well from the line.
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30 seconds D 65 UNC 68
This hurt. Lovedale brought Davidson within 1 and then Ellington countered with a big two. The Wildcats had a chance to tie with the three, but the ball ended up in Lovedale's hands who missed a two pointer.
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12 seconds D 67 UNC 70
Curry missed two chances at a three...and he was fouled on one without a call. Sander gets the easy two and Davidson will need a steal on the inbounds.
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Final D 68 UNC 72

Davidson vs. #1 North Carolina, 7 p.m., ESPN

I will be live-blogging tonight's game at Bobcats Arena here on Will's World. So if you can't get to a TV, or even if you can, be sure to stop by for some in-game thoughts and analysis. I will be sitting next to John Kilgo in press row so I'll be sure to throw in a few comments about the radio broadcast. Here are a couple of pre-game notes to get you through the afternoon.

-All eyes will be on the thumb and wrist of Hansbrough and Curry tonight. Psycho T injured his thumb against Lenoir-Rhyne on Friday and missed a day of practice with it iced up. Coach Williams has said that everything is fine. Meanwhile, this will be Stephen Curry's third game with a bandage wrist which he sprained while lifting weights not too long ago.

-The Wildcats were tabbed at #27 this week in the ESPN/USA Today poll. If they win tonight, they will probably crack the Top 25 for the first time since 1970 when they were ranked 15th in the AP poll.

-Davidson sold between 1,000 and 1,100 student tickets to tonight's game. That is a remarkable number considering that the school of 1,700 students has nearly 200 studying abroad right now.

-Tonight's game will be counted in the RPI as a neutral-site game. However, the atmosphere will resemble a home game. North Carolina will not have a band or cheerleaders and Davidson staff will be handling all of the PA, Jumbotron graphics and stereo music.

-ESPN the Magazine will be sending AK Clemmons, a staff writer who is also a Davidson graduate. Lots of other regional media will also be in attendance.

-Davidson Basketball media guides are now in and are available to the public for $10. This year's version is a special issue commemorating Davidson's 100th anniversary of men's basketball. With full-length features on every current Davidson player by John Kilgo, this media guide is one of the best ever produced. Contact Marc Gignac (magignac@davidson.edu) to purchase a copy.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Women's soccer ends fairy tale season in heartbreak

Sometimes fairy tale endings end up being just that, fairy tales. Davidson women’s soccer’s remarkable 2007 campaign came to an abrupt end on Friday night when Furman’s Rachel Fry headed in a loose ball from the penalty box in the second overtime of the Southern Conference tournament semifinals.

Davidson had defeated Furman by a score of 1-0 earlier in the conference season, but the Wildcats were unable to get on the scoreboard in this matchup and lost 1-0.

The ’Cats certainly had their chances to put the match away in regulation. Kyri Bye-Nagel ’10 had several excellent opportunities to score but she missed on all counts. The first two came in the second half when her header off a Nancy Haskell ’08 corner kick went wide. Just four minutes later, Bye-Nagel had another excellent opportunity but her shot on goal went high and deflected off the crossbar.

The best and final Davidson opportunity came in the second overtime when Bye-Nagel found herself in a one-on-one situation with the Furman goalie. Bye-Nagel, who was voted All-SoCon first team earlier in the week, struck her shot directly at the Paladin keeper who was able to make the game-saving stop.

The Paladins game-winning goal came as time ticked down in the second overtime and the game seemed to be heading to penalty kicks. Furman kicked a cross into the box with 10 seconds remaining and both teams scrummed for the loose ball in front of the goal. As the ball popped up in the air, Fry was able to connect with her head and send it to the corner of the goal with a mere 2.2 seconds remaining on the clock.

The game was the last contest for seniors Haskell, Bevin English ’08 and Kristen Koehrn ’08. Haskell had been honored with All-SoCon first team honors, while English and Suzanne Sittko ’10 were selected to the second team. The senior trio finish their careers as the all-time winningest class in Davidson women’s soccer history with an overall record of 51-26-6.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wildcats open centennial season with 120 points over Emory

Boris Meno and Jason Richards recorded double-doubles while Stephen Curry scored a game-high 27 points to lead Davidson to a 120-56 victory over D-III Emory in the season's opener. The 120 points were the highest Davidson basketball output since the 2002-2003 season when the Wildcats dropped 125 on Washington & Jefferson.

The Wildcats overmatched Emory in most aspects of the game and they never let up. Davidson opened up a 20-2 lead in the first five minutes of the game behind seven quick points from Thomas Sander.

Emory struggled all night with the 'Cats two-man full court pressure and trapping defense. Trying to beat the Davidson press, the Eagles penetrated to the paint only to find the Wildcats in wait. Davidson finished with nine blocks and twelve steals on the contest.

Meno finished the game with 12 points and 13 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Richards also recorded a double-double, tallying 14 points and 10 assists in only 20 minutes of play. Richards finished last season second in the country with 7.32 assists per game.

Curry also had a big game as he scored 27 points on 10-15 shooting, including 5-8 from three-point land. The sensational sophomore had a game-high three blocks, including one on a three-point attempt that started a transition scoring opportunity.

Brendan McKillop scored his first points in a Wildcat uniform as the freshman converted three out of seven three-point attempts for a total of 11 points. Bryant Barr scored 17 points off the bench, hitting five three-pointers. It was Barr's second-highest career point output. He scored a game-high 21 points against The Citadel at the end of last season.

The biggest storyline of this game, however, was the homecoming of Jason Zimmerman and Matt McKillop. The first-year head and assistant coaches of Emory obviously have very strong ties to Davidson, and despite the enjoyment of getting to open their coaching careers in a familiar environment, the game seemed pretty mentally and emotionally challenging for all those in Eagles colors.

After the game, lingerers witnessed a touching scene at half-court. Coach Zimmerman's son, wearing an Emory basketball t-shirt, stood on the empty court with tears welling up. Coach McKillop came up behind him, put his arm around him and whispered something in his ear as father, Jason, and Matt McKillop looked on.

The Eagles will now go back and looked to challenge in the D-III UAA, while Davidson looks forward to their biggest game of the season against the top-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels on Wednesday.

Davidson 120 Emory 56

-Live blogging will continue tonight on this thread. I will have some other responsibilities so the pace will not be as frenetic, but updates will be posted at least at the media timeouts with a game story to follow.

-This game will be the coaching debut of Emory's Jason Zimmerman and Matt McKillop, both of whom played for Coach McKillop at Davidson.

-The Eagles are a very small team with no player taller than 6'6" and they play in the D-III UAA conference. Emory is led by lone returning starter Spiros Ferderigos who averaged 17.6 points per game last season.

-The team also features twin brothers John and Ryan Kresse, the sons of former College of Charleston coaching legend John Kresse Sr. The Kresse twins went to my high school in Charleston and led the Porter-Gaud Cyclones to three straight state championships in their four years in high school. Other famous Porter-Gaud alumni include Jared Cochrane, a former Wildcat football and basketball player, and Stephen Colbert from the Colbert Report.

-Game time will be at 8 p.m. to partially accomodate the semifinals of the women's soccer Southern Conference tournament which Davidson is hosting and participating in. The soccer team is ranked #10 in the Southeast region and will be taking on rival Furman at 7 p.m.

-You can get all the latest Wildcat coverage by going to www.davidsonwildcats.com and clicking on the Multimedia tab on the right side of the screen.

-UPDATE: Men's basketball replica jerseys are now on sale through the Davidson College Bookstore. You can go to this site to order replica Stephen Curry jerseys.
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Here we go here at Belk Arena.

Matt McKillop is all business as they announce the Emory starting lineups.

In other quick hits, UNC Greensboro is hanging tough with Georgia Tech.
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18:10 D 10 E 0
Davidson off to a quick start with a Sander 2 and 3. The Wildcat crowd is into it and Davidson is rolling. It looks the nerves from Wednesday have been shaken. Emory is just so small.
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15:26 D 18 E 2
The Wildcats are rolling with some stifling defense. Meno with two blocks in a row on the interior and the two man press is slowing Kresse down. Lovedale with another block. I'm surprised Emory keeps going inside. There's so much good Wildcat stuff happening right now, I don't know what to recap.

In SoCon news, UNC G just upset Ga Tech.
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14:15 D 20 E 2
First media timeout and Matt's old frat mates are yelling "who's your daddy?" All kidding aside, this must be a really tough game for Emory to take. Every pass is getting deflected, the Wildcats are attacking the paint insatiably and challenging for every rebound. Sander leads all scorers with seven right now.
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10:49 D 28 E 7
Jason Richards scores to put his game total at eight. While it should go without saying, Davidson is attacking the paint very effectively and both Boris and Thomas are making some nice shots after receiving the ball with their backs to the basket.
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8:20 D 37 E 11
Wildcats looking good on the break as the Wildcats keep breaking Emory down and finding the open man. Curry hits a three and now has 11 points on the game. Wildcats dominant all around. The fans are warming up for Wednesday.
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4:55 D 45 E 17
Since this game will count in the official stats for the season, you have to (well, you don't, but I am) thinking about some stats for national standing. Curry has 13 points right now, but even more impressive are his three blocks so far (including one on a three-point attempt). Jason Richards already has six assists. And it doesn't look like the Wildcats will be letting up any time soon. Rossiter has been a lion inside so far with a few great offensive rebounds over three or four defenders.

We'll have to see whether Civi will score in double digits tonight.
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3:49 D 51 E 17
Whip out your video cameras, Boris Meno just got some huge dunks on the fast break including on off-the-glass alley-oop from Stephen. The frenetic pace of this game is really wearing Emory down. Kevin Cary's prediction of 100 points is looking pretty off right now. I'd say it will be more like 120.
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Halftime D 65 E 25
Brendan McKillop gets his first points of his career with a three from the corner, and the Danimal (Dan Nelms) enters the game. First half stats and thoughts coming up.

Stephen Curry leads all scorers with 15. He also has 5 assists to go with 6 rebounds and three blocks. Meno has a nice line once again with 12 first-half points to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks. Two of Boris's field goals came off rim-rattling dunks in the fast break.

In fact, this game has a seen nearly a season's worth of Davidson highlights. Steph has made some pretty moves around the basket, Archambault had a big dunk and Boris and Andrew have made some spectacular blocks. Thankfully for Davidson, members of the newly formed student broadcasting network are filming from the sidelines for their weekly TV show.
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16:40 D 77 E 34
And Stephen Curry is wanting those threes now. He just hit two in a row and now has 24 points on the game. Despite 40+ lead, Davidson is definitely still jacking up shots early and playing fast.
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15:28 D 81 E 36
If there were any doubts about Davidson deserving to be talked about in ESPN magazine as a national sleeper, this game should pretty much erase all of those. Another long pass for an alley-oop and smothering defense under the basket.

The only thing that looks semi-ugly on this night is Will Archambault's haircut.
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11:20 D 92 E 41
The pace of the game has really slowed and turned into a half-court slugfest with lots of fouls, out of bounds calls and the like. I'm sure that McKillop would like to get us running again so that the subs like lil McKillop, Barr and Archambault can get experience running and converting on the break. Curry subs back in on the official timeout...he already has four threes and probably wants one or two more. On some possessions, he has just sat in the corner and yelled for the ball as it made the rotation. Then he still hit the three despite being completely guarded.
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7:57 D 105 E 45
And a Steve Rossiter three makes Kevin Cary look like a genius. The Wildcats break into 100 points and there are still 8 minutes remaining. While Curry, Meno and Richards might be riding the bench from here on, I wouldn't sleep on McKillop and Rossiter putting up some big points from here on out.
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3:35 D 114 E 52
Bryant Barr has put together some big three point shots to keep building the Wildcat lead. We still haven't seen walk-on Mike Schmidt or Ben Allison, who is in street clothes on the bench. Nelms looked a bit overwhelmed with his few touches in the paint. He'll need to use his height more effectively.
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Final D 120 E 56
And it looks like my 120 prediction wasn't that bad. The Wildcats end this thing with a big dunk by Dan Nelms and the students chanting "we want the tar heels." I'll be back with a postgame story a little later.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cats overcome slow first half to win exhibition, 82-58

"We are climbing a different mountain this year. But we still know that we have to take it one step at a time." -Coach McKillop

Boris Meno led all scorers with 21 points as the Wildcats overcame a paltry first half to beat Lenoir-Rhyne 82-58 in the season-opening exhibition game. Meno had a monster second half on both sides of the floor as he helped the Wildcats spark an offensive explosion with defensive blocks and big plays in the paint. Meno was only credited with 2 blocks, but he had more than that.

Jason Richards and Stephen Curry also had strong moments in the second half as they led the Wildcat fast break and the defensive pressure. The Cats forced 11 second half turnovers and Richards and Curry accounted for four of them. The Cats finished well at the end of the break with nice layups and kickouts.

Richards finished only one assist and one rebound away from a triple-double while Curry put up 13 points, despite 6 turnovers.

"We definitely used our defensive pressure to our advantage," Curry said afterward. "It said a lot about our team to respond to adversity and open up a big lead."

The Wildcat bench also showed some spark as Rossiter, Barr and Archambault contributed key minutes and big shots. Archambault found the lane on several ball drives and was effective at breaking down the defense with his athleticism. He finished with seven points while Barr had nine.

The Wildcats could not pull away from the quick Lenoir-Rhyne squad in the first half. Many of the three-point attempts fell way short and the 'Cats looked slow off the ball.

"We were definitely playing with cement in our shoes," said McKillop. "But that's what these games are meant to do. Show you how to deal with adversity and give you experience with playing in the spotlight with the crowd."

A full post-game writeup can be found on www.davidsonwildcats.com.

Davidson 82 Lenoir Rhyne 58

The Wildcats are warming up in new Red warmups and the Wildcat is attempting half-court shots.

The Wildcats have a new walk-on on their lineup that fans did not see in the Night with the Cats. Mike Schmidt is a 6-4, 205lb freshman from Rocky Mount, NC. He will be wearing Lamar Hull's old number 20 this season.

Lenoir-Rhyne provided Belk Arena with a new first tonight. The Bears brought along their cheerleading squad, something the Southern Conference does not allow. It will be pretty crowded along the sidelines tonight.

Although he isn't on the radio, John Kilgo is in attendance tonight. We are all eagerly anticipating some new nicknames for this year's freshman class.

Former Wildcat Logan Kosmalski is also in attendance tonight.

Reggie Bratton is the star guard/forward for Lenoir Rhyne. He led the Bears in scoring last year with 16.7 ppg. Bratton is listed at 6-4, 190 from Charlotte.

---
18:50
MPG airballs the first shot of the game but Sander rebounds it for the score. The Wildcats' height advantage is incredible. Offensive rebounds galore thus far.
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16:38
The Wildcats seem a bit too business-like right now. A bit lazy with the ball and not as frenetic on their pace. Two turnovers in a row on offense and the jump shots are a little off.
And Stephen just missed a wide open dunk. Collective OOOOOOHHHHH
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15:57
The Wildcats have five straight possessions without a basket. It's not too pretty right now. You can definitely see how these D-II teams are driving their opponents crazy. The Wildcats have mismatch advantages at every position and it seems like they don't really know where to attack. When they do attack it isn't very successful.
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14:50
Thomas Sander just got poked in the eye on a Bear drive. He's already been fouled hard on the offensive end. Rossiter, Archambault and Lovedale in the game.
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14:00
College comm. is here with some cameras tonight to get some footage for a commercial to be used in ESPN's coverage of the UNC game. They just got footage of a nice J-Rich drive and finish. 5 fouls on Davidson so far.
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12:30
I've been ripping on the Wildcats a bit, but I will say that their defense has been very good. They've already forced two charging calls, have a block and a few steals. Steph is handling the point right now.
These refs are a bit whistle-happy right now. 8 minutes, 9 total fouls.
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11:50
Another Wildcat turnover on a late possession travel by Sander. Curry is taking a breather with 4 points on two pull-up jumpers. Am really surprised to see no set interior plays to Sander or Boris or Andrew. The height is there but the Wildcats are playing on the perimeter.
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11:01
For frequenters of Belk Arena, you will notice that the fraternity guys that usually sit behind the visitor's bench have been moved up several rows and several rows of Davidson season ticket holders take their place.
The Cats are having a little trouble with this LR full court press. Four straight turnovers (9 total). Bears are in the bonus.
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10:10 D 11 LR 12
Archambault short arms a three. We look really really tired right now, while LR is running all over the court. A three pointer gives them the lead.
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8:39 D 13 LR 16
BMcKillop into the game at point and JRich moves to the 2. Sander breaks the drought with a nice hard-fought layup. Curry's been on the bench for a while.
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7:51 D 13 LR 16
The fans are finally waking up a little after a poor no-call that turned into a J-Rich double dribble after he was pushed off the ball. We'll see whether that wakes everyone up. Belk Arena feels very lackadaisical and nothing like last year. Fans and players alike seemed a bit stunned. Curry is back in the game which might serve to be a catalyst.
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5:43 D 18 LR 16
Boris Meno just about ripped the rim off with a dunk. Emotion is coming back. Meno then gets an O rebound, puts it back and gets fouled. Lovedale has gotten several impressive D rebounds.
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5:00 D 18 LR 18
LR now in the double bonus with Lovedale's third foul. Curry is way short on his three-point attempts. He's airballed one or two.
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3:31 D 23 LR 21
Sander gets a nice layup and now has six points. Barr hits a three and gets fouled on another. BBarr will go to the line after the media timeout.
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1:40 D 27 LR 26
JRich trying to make some stuff happen one-on-one on offense. He slashes to the basket on a well-screened play, and then gets fouled on the next posession. Hit 1 of 2 free throws. It looks like Steph will end the half on the bench.
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Halftime 31 LR 27
Meno ends the half on a huge dunk after cutting from a high screen. It was a nice-looking set play that Wildcat fans have seen often. (I just realized that everyone already has access to stats on www.davidsonwildcats.com)

Davidson is shooting 13-29 from the field and 2-14 from three land. LR's shooting has been poor as well, only 8-34 from the field. JRich and Sander lead all Wildcat scorers with 8 apiece while Curry only has 4 points on 2-7 shooting (0-4 from three).

The Wildcats have committed 11 fouls and given the ball up 12 times (Curry has four turnovers). Richards leads all rebounders with 5, he also has 5 assists.

The Cats are all business in the warmups right now. This thing might get blown open to start this half. I would say that I'm pretty disappointed in the crowd. Granted, it is an exhibition and Davidson hasn't given them much to cheer about. But the students aren't starting cheers and it's pretty silent most of the time.
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18:20 D 36 LR 27
A couple of offensive fouls on both teams and we're off in the second half. Another D turnover sandwiched a nice fast break miss and put back from Boris. Max forces another turnover and hits a line-drive three on the other end. LR timeout.
Coach said something. And it probably had to do with defense. This scoring drought is going to be overcome with aggressive defense. Funny how that works.
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16:41 D 43 LR 29
Curry hits a three, Sander with a steal and Curry finishes with an impressive behind the back layup AND1 (but he misses FT). The Davidson defense is relentless. Curry again. Here we go.
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15:08 D 45 LR 32
Curry gets an impressive steal and gets the ball back for the finish. He now has 9 second half points for a total of 13. The defense is looking really impressive and most of the points are coming off of the break rather than half-court situations.
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12:51 D 53 LR 44
The Wildcats have slowed a bit with Curry on the bench and LR has made a run. It's not good when LR is scoring on us inside.
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11:27 D 56 LR 44
Barr and Arch finally getting into the act from the outside. Will also had a nice slash drive which many fans had been wanting all season. Davidson went with a trapping defense which LR handled pretty well, getting some good looks. Boris takes us into the media timeout with a big block. He has certainly recognized the need for those emotional "daggers."
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9:52 D 58 LR 48
Curry picks up his fourth foul on the new scoreboard. But after a quick little conference then change it back to three. Overall, however, the new stat boards are really nice and helpful, except for when they tell us that we have eight team fouls already.
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7:43 D 66 LR 48
Curry's wrap on his left hand is hurting him visibly. He missed on a one-handed pass. Boris dunk percentage is now at 60% (3/5). Rossiter has played very well for Sander tonight. Richards has done well at attacking the basket.

And Meno with another O rebound and finish. He has 14 points at this point. It looks like KCary's feature on him really upped his confidence. He is going strong at the basket on every touch.

And it's Sweet Caroline time!
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4:26 D 79 LR 49
Jason and Boris are getting it done on both ends of the court, they have 16 and 17 points respectively. And the refs are calling some more fouls. LR in the double bonus but they don't shoot free throws very well.

Boris again. Now he's got 19. Meno again on the offensive end. He's going to be the man in the paint this year (at least after tonight's display, we'll see whether it continues). Sander's been on the bench for quite a while as Rossiter comes in to give Meno a breather.
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3:04 D 81 LR 54
McKillop back in and playing the 2 to Richards' 1. Lovedale has looked not so good on the offensive end. He's getting boards but the shots are not there. And we're at the last official timeout. This one could have ended badly but Davidson didn't embarass here in the second half.

One last note, the Davidson pep band has pretty much stolen the ESPN mix from the Chattanooga Mocs. I hate it because it sounds so cool, and yet it always reminds me of bad times in the Roundhouse.
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1:33 D 82 LR 56
Civi and Nelms in to join Arch, Brendan and Steve. Now Bond in for Will.
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Final D 82 LR 58

It's showtime!

Welcome to Davidson basketball 2007-2008. All of the preview articles are in, the prognosticators have done their job and Davidson is "it." The Wildcats are the premier Cinderella/Mid-Major/Small School/Little guy in the country this year and when the curtain is raised on tonight's season-opening exhibition game, Wildcat fans around the world will finally get to be unfrozen from that carbonite state that struck all of us simultaneously at 3:15 p.m. on March 15, 2007.

I will be live blogging tonight's game and earnestly ask for your contributions in the comment box. Please suggest different ways to format the live blog (separate entries, different ordering, etc.), different forms of content or observation that you'd like to read or anything else that comes to mind.

Coach McKillop always talks about the need to dance when nobody's watching but he also talks about the need to perform when the lights come up on that Broadway stage. We're all settling in now, the players are gathered in the wings and the cameras are about to start rolling. It's showtime.

McKillop, Wildcats embrace the bull's-eye

by Patrick McArdle, Co-Sports Editor of The Davidsonian (this article appears in the 11/7/07 issue of The Davidsonian as part of its 2007-2008 basketball preview)

Soon students and fans will walk down the red brick, across the road towards Belk Arena for the beginning of the much anticipated 2007-2008 Men's Basketball season. Last year's unparalleled success of 29 wins and a Southern Conference Championship took the campus and nation by surprise.

This year, however, no one underestimates Davidson, especially the national press. The most recent national article to laud the team appeared in "USA Today," emphasizing that top tier basketball and first-rate academics coexist at Davidson.

"I'm absolutely thrilled with the article and how it represented what we truly are, not just as a program but as a school as well," Coach Bob McKillop said. "Not many times can we have that story told."

Positive press, however, is sometimes a double-edged sword. McKillop and his staff have been negotiating the delicate dance of public relations throughout the offseason.

"You can't run from the media, but you can't stick your chest out because of it," McKillop said. "You have to understand why it's here. It's here not because of anything we've accomplished at this point, but instead it's about what has been in the past. And it's not just about what this team and what this coach has accomplished in the past, but it's what this program has done in the past."

While the team needs to prove itself again, the potential exists for another historic season. Unlike last year, one of the team's greatest strengths is experience, with all five starters from last year's team returning to the floor for the Wildcats.

Anchoring the frontcourt in his final campaign will be Thomas Sander '08. A versatile forward, Sander is versed in hard-nosed defense, rebounding, transition scoring and three-point shooting. Boris Meno '08 joins in the frontcourt, adding defensive versatility, rebounding excellence and senior leadership to the mix.

Joining them is a backcourt that ranks among the country's best. All-SoCon point guard Jason Richards '08 will again start for the 'Cats, utilizing leadership and the exquisite court vision that allowed him to tally the second-most assists in the nation last year. Richards has a great target in Stephen Curry '10, the phenomenal shooting guard who last year won SoCon Freshman of the Year and SoCon Tournament MVP. Curry led the SoCon in scoring with 21.5 points per game, ranking ninth in the nation last year. The final piece of the starting backcourt is Max Paulhus Gosselin '09, a defensive specialist who led last year's club with a .500 field goal percentage.

But five players are not enough to win against the grueling schedule. Luckily, the bench is also full of experience and talent. The backcourt bench runs deep, consisting of Will Archambault '10, Bryant Barr '10, Can Civi '09, Brendan McKillop '11 and Aaron Bond '11. The frontcourt is fortified by Steve Rossiter '09, Andrew Lovedale '09, Dan Nelms '10 and Ben Allison '11.

"When you go to the bench, when you go to your full rotation, there cannot be a dramatic dropoff in terms of the implementation and execution of the system," McKillop said. "Maybe we've had that happen in the past, but we feel extremely confident in the current rotation because of their experience in meeting that challenge."

Being consistent in implementing the game plan will be the team's constant challenge during the upcoming season.

"It's going to take 40 minutes," McKillop said. "We sometimes get amnesia during the course of a game against opponents who outmatch us in every way. We stick to a game plan and we stay within a system and we have success. But the consistency of sticking to the game plan and staying within the system has to have the duration of 40 minutes. The elusive quality of greatness is consistency."

On the offensive side of the ball, the plan is simple: attack. "All five players need to be in the attack mode. You can expect us to run on makes and misses. You can expect us to take full advantage of every out of bounds opportunity that presents itself," McKillop said.

One word also effectively summarizes the defensive philosophy: disrupt. "We love to break rhythm. Breaking rhythm causes a disruption of their flow, creates dry spells for your opponent and maybe allows you to go on a run that's not just a result of your attacking offence but is a result of your rhythm breaking defense."

The team looks to start strong early against Emory before its showdown with top ranked UNC. As McKillop emphasized at Night with the Cats, embracing the bull's-eye starts with the fans.

"Games can be decided by a few points. The crowd gives you that needed boost of adrenaline. The crowd perhaps puts the opponent maybe at a disadvantage confidence wise. The crowd perhaps influences the way our guys use their energy. And because of the crowd, we may be able to steal a basket or two or three and in many games that's the difference in the outcome."

McKillop Era Brings Renewed Success

When Coach Bob McKillop moved to Davidson in 1989, he didn't make too many long-term plans. While McKillop had been an assistant at Davidson in 1979, he saw this coaching stint as an opportunity to springboard into the coaching ranks of major college basketball. McKillop knew Driesell's story, and he knew that he could use this opportunity to his advantage.

In Driesell's first year, he made an immediate impact by upsetting Wake Forest early in the season. McKillop went 4-24 with a team that wasn't even playing in the Southern Conference. The next two years were not much better. By the time Davidson rejoined the Southern Conference in 1992, McKillop had been humbled enough to realize that maybe he should refocus his priorities.
The Queens native came to buy into the Davidson way and invested all of his mind and self in the Wildcat program. McKillop changed his philosophy and success followed.

The Wildcats made their first postseason appearance under McKillop in 1994 when they were selected to the NIT after losing by one point in the Southern Conference tournament Championship Game.

Two years later, the Wildcats had one of their best seasons ever as they went 14-0 in conference play and only lost three regular season games. But NCAA glory once again eluded the 'Cats as Western Carolina knocked off Davidson in the tournament championship game. It was a heartbreaking loss for a senior class that included eventual NBA player and Davidson Hall of Famer Brandon Williams.

Although the Wildcats lost in the first round of the NIT that year, a more important thing had transpired during the four-year careers of players like Williams and Chris Alpert: Davidson basketball had become a winning program again. The Wildcats won Southern Conference tournaments in 1998 and 2002 and have advanced to the postseason each of the last three years.

McKillop would go on to fashion the talents of players like Ali Ton, Landry Kosmalski, Michael Bree, Chris Pearson and Brendan Winters into a winning system. That system called for effective perimeter passing, unceasing picks and screens and the ability of every player on the court to hit jump shots. McKillop also emphasized extremely physical defense and smart basketball. Whether McKillop brought in a player from North Carolina or the Czech Republic, they were all taught to play one way: as a team.

Perhaps that is one of the biggest trademarks of the team's success over the last two decades. Davidson basketball has come to embrace a unique role in being a national competitor in a huge commercial business, while continuing to stress the importance of an elite academic experience. The recent USA Today article certainly summed up this paradigm in its headline: "Hoops, Books coexist."

With all the media exposure of the last few years, Davidson's program, and McKillop its orchestrator, has received recognition for its success, international focus, academic integrity and hard work. Yet, there is one modifier that is too rarely used to describe Davidson basketball or McKillop: dynamic.

Two years ago, Davidson sported one of its most experienced team of the last two decades and yet the Wildcats struggled to a 10-5 record in the Southern Conference. By the end of the conference season, McKillop decided that it was time to change things up a bit.

He shortened the practice times, he used more gags and jokes around his players, he started hanging out in the Union more to interact with the team in a different context. For a brief week or two before the Southern Conference Tournament, things changed a little. The 'Cats ended up sweeping through the tourney as a three seed and capturing another SoCon title.

Last year, McKillop took a look at his team personnel and realized that his system might need to be made more flexible. Throughout the season, fans saw a Davidson style of play that seemed really new: the players took quick shots, they played more pressure defense and tried to get run-outs, they were dunking the ball during warm-ups. During the press conferences, McKillop stressed a new theme: responsibility to your teammates coupled with the freedom to improvise a little.

Wildcat basketball has continued to be successful because it has been dynamic and changed in small ways when it needed to.

Every summer, when McKillop and his players and staff run the youth basketball camp, McKillop opens the week off with a call to be great. He brings out the 1964 "Sports Illustrated" in which Davidson was the top-ranked team in the country during the postseason. Then he says, "We can do that again."

Every year, there are usually a few 15-year-olds in the back who snicker at the proposition, perhaps dismissing mid-major Davidson to big conference teams. But this summer, McKillop followed up the "Sports Illustrated" with another display. It was Andy Katz's preseason Top 25 that tabbed Davidson as the nation's 23rd best team. No one snickered this year.


This is the final article in a four-part Davidsonian series on the 100th anniversary of Davidson basketball.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Live blogging

This site will be live blogging the first two home games of the season as the Davidson men's basketball team takes on Lenoir Rhyne in an exhibition this Wednesday and Emory on Friday. The Friday night game will start an hour later at 8 p.m. to accomodate the Southern Conference women's soccer semifinals.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bevin English: One for the Books

by Lauren Biggers, Sports Information Department

As second-seeded Davidson prepares to battle the seventh-seeded Wofford Terriers in the first-round of the 2007 Women’s Soccer Southern Conference tournament at 3 p.m. on Sunday at Alumni Stadium, the ‘Cats will be looking to translate their regular-season success into postseason glory.

Having won 12 of their last 14 games and riding a five-game winning streak, the Wildcats avenged last year’s quarterfinals loss to the Georgia Southern Eagles with a 2-0 triumph, fittingly, on Thursday’s Senior Day.

Fittingly because this year’s three seniors — who double as tri-captains and roommates — defender Nancy Haskell, forward Kristen Koehrn and goalkeeper Bevin English are the winningest class in Wildcat women’s soccer history and enter this weekend’s tournament game with a record of 50-25-6 over their four-year career.

Head coach Greg Ashton enters the tournament with a 50-25-6 overall record of his own and a 31-7-3 league mark in his four-year tenure and leads one of the program’s most successful, if not talented, teams to date.

And while Haskell and Koehrn are unquestionably large pieces of this year’s Wildcat puzzle, it is English who has been putting together one of the best seasons in program history.

Leading the SoCon in goals against average (0.80), save percentage (.849) and shutouts (10), English is having a career year with personal highs in saves, shutouts, goals against, wins and saves in a single game.

With a SoCon-best 10 shutouts this season, English set the all-time Davidson record for shutouts in a career with a 2-0 defeat of Elon on Oct. 25 for her 19th shutout. With 79 saves this season, she has moved into the top-five in career saves with 218, and her current career goals against average of 1.08 ranks first all-time among Wildcat keepers.

A two-time student athlete of the week and an All-SoCon academic team member the past two years for excellence on the field and in the classroom, English has started 50 of her past 51 games, including 16 this season. The ‘Cats’ starting keeper for the past three seasons has amassed a 30-14-5 overall record.

A member of a top-two league finisher in all four of her seasons, success is anything but unfamiliar to English. And while this year’s accomplishments weren’t necessarily unexpected, English admits there were some questions after the team’s 0-3 start.

The team got its first victory, a 1-0 overtime win against High Point, at home on Sept. 2, but dropped another pair of games, on a trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., to Air Force and Colorado College. With a 1-5 record, all wasn’t lost, but Southern Conference play was quickly approaching.

“After going 1-3 in the beginning of the season,” English said. “We all got together as a team, and we also got together in small groups based on our positions to kind of refocus. It wasn’t time to panic, but we had to win games.”

The team that needed to find an identity found one in English’s backyard at the College of Charleston’s tournament. The ‘Cats opened the tournament in dramatic fashion as sophomore Blakely Low’s header lifted the team to a 2-1 overtime win over Vanderbilt for the team’s first win over the Commodores. That same weekend, Davidson registered an even bigger win, downing previously unbeaten LSU, 3-0, to take the tournament title behind English’s second shutout of the season.

“That was fantastic,” English said of winning the tournament title in her hometown. “I got to play in front of some friends and family from around there. Some people I played with in high school came; my high school coach came. Beating two SEC teams, especially after the way we started the season, was huge for us. Things finally started to come together, and we realized we can compete with anyone.”

Entering the SoCon tournament as the second seed, that’s exactly the approach the 2007 Wildcats will carry into the weekend. After two of the biggest wins in program history, the team put together an eight-game unbeaten streak. Its lone conference loss, though, came to regular-season champion UNC Greensboro, a 3-0 setback on Oct. 14 at Alumni Stadium. To win the conference, the ‘Cats will likely have to go through the Spartans, but English chooses to focus on the end goal.

“Our goal since the beginning of preseason when we sat down and planned our team goals has been to win the SoCon championship so we could get in the NCAAs,” English said. “That has always been the big goal and the focus. In the back of our minds, while we are focusing on every single game, that’s our ultimate goal.”

And as good team captains go, one of the best goalkeepers in Davidson history is quick to dismiss her own accomplishments and shift the focus to her team.

“It is nice, but most of the credit goes to the defenders in front of me,” English said. “They do a lot of the work and don’t get any credit for stats. So they are not really my records, even though my name is the one in the book.”

Undoubtedly, Senior Day and a final SoCon tournament bring reflection, but English insists she will be completely focused on the game as she takes the field Sunday. When pressed, she admits it is her teammates that she will reflect most fondly upon as her storied career comes to an end.

“Obviously, the people I played with over the past four years, that’s the best part,” English said.

With English in goal, the second-seeded ‘Cats will take the field against the seventh-seeded Wofford Terriers on Sunday. The program’s fourth Southern Conference championship would be a perfect ending to the story.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Davidson media sources

Several days ago I promised an AP story to be coming on the heels of Reid Cherner's USA Today article. That story, Curry-led Davidson has the ingredients to be the next mid-major surprise, is now out in circulation despite its painfully long title.

Just to give an update for those new to this blog and Davidson Wildcat basketball, there will be many ways to follow the team this year.

Will's World will be publishing post-game stories with quotes and analysis as well other features and interviews that might come up throughout the season. However, the staple feature of this blog will be the live blogs. Although I only did it for a few games last year, it seemed that many Davidson fans liked to follow along online with running commentary. I hope to extend this to several road and home games during the course of the regular season as well as the Southern Conference tournament.

Davidson Basketball Blog, despite several conspiracy theories, is not actually run by me. A 1994 grad named Wells Black runs that blog out of Greenville, SC...it just so happens that we share the same initials and love Davidson basketball. He will be posting various Davidson content throughout the season including nationally syndicated articles, features from this blog, his own personal highlight videos and much more.

Make sure to check out the Wildcat fan message board where Davidson fans gather to banter about the games and share some of their collective memories of dribbles and passes from ancient glory days of the 1960's and 1970's.

Finally, keep up to date with the Davidson sports home page and the Davidson student newspaper, The Davidsonian. The athletics site will have game stories, statistics and pictures as well as a new multimedia service where fans can watch live and archived broadcasts of all Wildcat basketball games for a small fee. The new broadcasting system will have multiple cameras and will be a step above the SoCon.tv service from last season.

Fall sports refuse to yield

I, like so many other Davidson people right now, am absolutely obsessed with the start of men's basketball. With national press proclaiming us to be the prince of the cinderellas, it has been fun to bask in the spotlight that Stephen Curry, Jason Richards and Bob McKillop have drawn to little ol' Davidson.

But even within all of the respect for men's basketball that most other students and student-athletes have on campus, the fall sports teams aren't ready to pack up their bags and go sit in the stands in Belk Arena.

The men's soccer team pulled out a thrilling OT win to beat Wofford last Saturday and are now positioning themselves to pull an upset or two in the SoCon tournament. Despite starting the season at 1-9, the Wildcats could finish as high as fourth in the conference and will likely face off against rival UNC Greensboro in the tournament's quarterfinal round.

The women's soccer team finished the season with four straight straight shutouts and have only allowed more than goal in a game once in the past 15 contests. The Wildcats earned a two seed heading into this weekend's tournament and they will host Wofford at home on Sunday at 3. The Wildcats are doubly confident because Davidson was selected to host the semifinals and finals of this year's conference tournament. With defensive specialist Melanee Smith back to help out Nancy Haskell on the defensive side of the field, Davidson might not give up another goal for the rest of the season.

With some missing links on both sides of the line, this was supposed to be an up and down season for Davidson football. After losing to Dayton on Oct. 13, it looked as though the Wildcats season was over. But after a miraculous victory over Drake, the Wildcats now sit at 5-3 and are on the road to having another winning season. If the Cats can repeat their magic tomorrow against San Diego, they will be in the scenarios for the PFL regular season championship (they would need Dayton to lose both of its final games).

Combine these strong fall teams with the start up of swimming where freshman Lindsey Martin has been destroying the Davidson record books, and it seems that there are still quite a few student-athletes who can wait a little longer before Stephen Curry and the Wildcats take the court.