Friday, March 28, 2008

Davidson blows out Wisconsin, advances to Elite 8

After the biggest win of Davidson's program in the last forty years, there was no mobbing at center court. The locker room was not being torn apart and there were only two media members talking to players other than Stephen Curry and Jason Richards.

Davidson's 73-56 win over third-seeded Wisconsin in the Midwest region semifinals was not a miracle of epic proportions. Davidson didn't need a last second three-pointer from Stephen Curry to cap off a big comeback. Instead, Davidson handed the champions of the Big Ten a good, ol-fashioned whupping.

After being tied at the half, Davidson went on a tear in the second stanza as Curry scored 22 second-half points to finish with 33 for the game. His high-flying show of dagger three-pointers and insane reverse layups was accentuated by Jason Richards' superb 11-point, 13-assist, 0-turnover performance. Andrew Lovedale continued to put up big numbers in the NCAA Tournament as he scored 12 points on 5-5 shooting.

By the end of the contest, not only had Davidson advanced to the Elite 8 for the first time since 1969 and won three straight NCAA tournament games for the first time ever, but they also continued to put their mark in the Davidson record book for years to come. Richards' 13 assists put him in first place all-time as Davidson's assist leader, while Curry's six three-pointers helped him tie the NCAA record for three-pointers in a season. Davidson's 29 wins ties last year's mark as the most all-time in Davidson's history.

After a first half where the Wildcats and Badgers exchanged punches from the three-point line and on the glass, Davidson was able to run away through the strength of their defense. The Wildcats forced seven second-half turnovers and held Wisconsin to 23% from the field. More importantly, Davidson was able to get in the open court and create open looks against one of the best defenses in the country.

"Michael Flowers is a great defender, but I was able to find a lot of open spots in transition," Curry said afterwards. "Our defense helped create those opportunities and that's one of our biggest strengths as a team."

Although many writers thought that Wisconsin's size and game plan would slow down the Wildcats and force a grind-out affair, it was actually Davidson's defense and their team speed that took center stage.

"We love playing in the open court," Jason Richards said. "We are a team that plays fast. That's just what we do at Davidson."

And so as Davidson becomes the ever rare double digit seed to make the Elite 8, objective observers can't help but notice that this team does not fit the mold of your typical "cinderella."

In the post-game, a New York Post reporter asked Jason Richards how "teeny Davidson" seemed to out-physical the mighty Badgers.

"We won't back down from everyone."

The Wildcats actually outscored the taller Wisconsin squad 22-18 in the paint and won the rebounding battle in the second half.

Not only are these Wildcats strong and physical, they have a star player that belongs on the biggest stage. They have a player that Cinderella mid-majors aren't supposed to get their hands on. And on this biggest stage, Curry put on a show for the world and for one of the best players of that even bigger stage of the NBA, LeBron James.

"It is really cool for a guy like Lebron to come out and support us," Curry said. James was on his feet at several points in the second half, awe-struck with the moves of Curry.

But after you add up Davidson's strength and star power, you are left with a very glaring reality on this Friday night. These Wildcats played to win from the opening tip, and after rolling through the Big Ten champions, they acted like they had been here before.

"At the beginning of this season, I told John Kilgo that I wanted to win the National Championship," Andrew Lovedale said. "I wasn't joking."


JEFF SHAW aka JWS said...

THANK YOU for being there Will.

Your writing captures the true spirit of Davidson and it's players.

jv said...

My first time to visit this site was early this a.m., after the energy lingering from last night's W over the Badgers was so palpable as to prevent a full night's sleep. Fun stuff on here! /JV (from the class of -- well, let's just say it was a while ago).