Friday, March 21, 2008

Taking it to Another Level: Wildcats advance in NCAA Tournament

For so many years and through so many lost opportunities, Davidson basketball has had to justify itself. Davidson College has been home to a great basketball tradition that took the country by storm in the 1960's. The Wildcats have set national standards of excellence for succeeding on the court and in the classroom. Davidson has long been the darling of everyone in March...

"You played so hard, it felt like you should have won."

But at the end of the day, the rationalizations and wait-til-next-year talk did not cut it. The Wildcats needed to perform and win on the biggest stage in the country, and on Friday afternoon, they finally did that. And they did it in style.

The 10th seeded Wildcats beat the 7th seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs 82-76 in the NCAA Tournament's First Round.

Despite trailing for all of the first thirty minutes of the ballgame, the Wildcats caught the Bulldogs on a three-pointer from Stephen Curry. Like it's often been all season, Curry's stellar play was the main story across the newslines as the Wildcats won their first NCAA Tournament game since 1969.

The second team All American tied a career high with 40 points, including 30 in the second half, to lead the Wildcats to victory. Curry's biggest shot of the game came with just under a minute to play as he fielded a pass from Andrew Lovedale and knocked home a wide open three-pointer to give Davidson a three-point lead. Curry immediately pointed to his father in the stands and then pointed to the sky.

My father has been there my whole life," Curry said. "I play for God and I give all the glory to Him. That why I point like that. It's kind of my thing now."

Curry's 30 second half points set a new Davidson record while his 40 points on the game ranked fifth all time in NCAA Tournament history and was the most that any player has scored in first round action.

But Davidson could not have advanced in the NCAA Tournament on the efforts of Curry alone.

Andrew Lovedale recorded his first career double-double while Jason Richards tallied nine assists on the game.

"I'm most proud of the way our players played as a team," Davidson's coach Bob McKillop said. "I know that we got better today. We had a lot of fun. And we undoubtedly played to win."

Richards helped provide much of Davidson's offense in the first half, while his leadership directed Davidson's defensive and offensive attack in the second half. As an experienced senior, Richards reminded his teammates of the team's comeback at Greensboro earlier in the season when Curry scored 40 points and Richards hit the game-winning layup.

"We kept our composure and we responded," Richards said. "We knew that we'd been here before and that definitely helped us through."

Andrew Lovedale finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. His maturity and athleticism was crucial in the final minutes of the game as he secured an offensive rebound setting up Curry's go-ahead three-pointer. Then he pulled down a big defensive rebound amongst the taller Bulldog forwards and his subsequent free throws iced the victory for Davidson.

Davidson's victory comes as a landmark achievement for a program that has been knocking on the door for some time now. Detractors will now be hard pressed to criticize the Wildcats for any lack of athleticism, poise, or ability to win the big game. But the season does not end tonight as the Wildcats have to start preparing for the second seeded Georgetown Hoyas who made the Final Four last season.

"We will stop and smell the roses," Richards said. "But we have to get ready to play on Sunday against Georgetown."


John said...

Great post Will. It really emphasizes how much this team relies on all its players, not just one.

WB said...

I'm still on a high.