Saturday, January 26, 2008

Business as Usual

CHARLESTON, S.C. –- So I was walking down George Street in this pretty little city, about an hour and a half before tip, headed toward Kresse Arena, right behind two campus cops.

"I don't even know who we're playing," the first cop said.

"Davidson," the second cop said.

"Oh shit," the first cop said.

What can you say? The man had a point.

The Wildcats here on Saturday were in their road reds for the sixth time in seven games, AND were playing their fourth game in a week, AND were going up against a Charleston team coming off two straight bad losses that
should've been desperate, AND got only three assists from Jason Richards, AND got "only" 16 points from Steph Curry, AND had very few fans in a small, sold-out gym, AND played a pretty awful second half.

And they won by 12.

And it wasn't even close.

At no point in any of the 40 minutes of play were the Wildcats going to lose the game, not once, not ever. Y'all saw it on TV. Never ever.

This was supposed to be loud and crazy and sweaty and tight. The signs on the doors to the gym a good hour before the start said Sold Out.

And if you were from Davidson, you had to have some juice to the nth to get into this one – your name had to be Hobby, or Dell, or McKillop, or Matheny, it seemed, all hunched behind the Wildcat bench. Everybody else in the place was dressed in maroon.

But it was 12-4, then 15-4, then 18-4, then 23-9, then 32-16. That was pretty much how it was going to be. Nice comfy working margin, thanks very much.

Ho-hum. Don't mind us. We're just passing through.

At least in the first half, balls that were up for grabs kind of weren't, not really, because the Davidson boys were getting just about all of them. Fierce. There was a 4-5 league team out there, and there was a 10-0 league team out there, and it was the 10-0 team that was playing like it NEEDED to win.

One-man team?

People say that, right?

Well, here: Sander with a top of the key three, channeling a little Landry, Sander on the block, Sander at the rim for a tip off the offensive glass.

Here: Lovedale with a baseline J, Lovedale with a 17-footer, Lovedale with that little tiptoe dribble under the basket and into a nifty reverse.

Here: a two from Max.

Here: a three from Barr.

And … okay, Steph being Steph, too, here and there, including one deep three that came at about two minutes before half, one of those where he gets just the teeniest, tiniest, slimmest bit of light … and up and in it goes. A disgusted, disbelieving Charleston fan dressed in a black suit sitting in the front row looked like he might chuck his 20-ounce Sprite.

The second half, meanwhile, is probably better left alone for the most part. It was unsightly.

The Wildcats outrebounded Charleston 26-15 in the first half … and basically flip-flopped the figure in the second. The Wildcats shot 6-for-12 from three in the first … and 0-for-6 in the second. There were missed free throws. There were missed three throws from Steph (!). There were WOUNDED free throws from Boris. Those loose balls that belonged to Davidson in the first … not in the second. They looked tired.

At about 8 minutes to go, their facial expressions said, basically:

Are we done yet?

Haven't we done what we needed to do to show that we're the better team?

Can we go home now? Finally?

But the lead, almost always, was 15, 18, 12.

Steph was bothered at times by the lanky stick of a kid named Wiggins. Wiggins had help too. Charleston threw two guys at Steph about every time he touched the ball. Seems like a smart thing to do with Davidson. Limit Curry. Or try. Make somebody else beat you.


Lovedale for 10 and 7.

Red-cheeked Sander for 21 and 5.

"That guy's ALWAYS open," one fan moaned in the middle of the second half.

That's called math. Two white jerseys on one red jersey = one red jersey wide open. It's like the campus cop said.

The sellout crowd was … were they there? In the cramped, sweaty gym with a low ceiling and wooden bleachers, those folks cheered, like, twice – once at the beginning of the second half when the Cougar crowd-surfed, and then with two and change to go when Charleston hit a jumper and was down by 11 and there seemed, for a brief, fleeting moment, and only that, that there MIGHT have been a CHANCE.

But no.

Kevin Cary, the Observer's conscientious tracker of the 'Cats, pointed out on press row that Davidson has trailed in the second half of just one conference game so far this year – that, of course, being the scrape up at Elon.

To which Steph said after this latest win: "We haven't really done anything yet."

McKillop said he was happy with the post play. He said he wasn't so happy with the so-so second half. Still, though, the boys got back on the bus and went home, a job well done down here.

A win is a win is a win, and in the league now that's 11 and 0, 21 in a row, 35 of 36, etc., etc., etc.

Michael Kruse, class of 2000, is a staff writer for the St. Petersburg Times.

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