Walking out of Ford Field after Davidson's 57-59 loss to top-seeded Kansas in the Elite 8, I felt every single emotion imaginable: pain at watching my friend and classmate sit at center court after missing the game-winning shot...happiness that these Wildcats had advanced so far and fought so valiantly...numbness in realizing that I would never again watch a Davidson basketball game as a Davidson student...shattered hope that these Wildcats could fulfill some sort of destiny that seemed right there for the taking.
But the whirl of thoughts and feelings were quickly brought to a singular head when I stepped out onto the street. Mobs of reporters and locals flocked to the exodus of Davidson red, looking for interviews and offering consolation.
"Don't worry, we will see you back here in the Final Four next year!" they shouted.
What? Do you have any idea what you are talking about? Davidson had not made it past the first round of the NCAA Tournament for 39 years. And they just had a shot to make it to the Final Four! This opportunity does not happen every year for a team from a one-bid league with an enrollment of 1,700 students and rigorous admission standards. This year was a miracle, and it may never be replicated in my lifetime.
Those were my immediate responses. That was the pain talking, but I realized that it was also my selfishness talking. I wanted my senior year to end in miracles from the national semifinals.
On the morning after the game, I realized that despite all of the games, practices and interviews that I've seen with this team over the last four years, those strangers in Detroit actually had a better perspective on Davidson right now than I did.
This run, while magical, was certainly not miraculous. Davidson was not and is not a Cinderella and didn't need the help of a fairy godmother to knock off Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin.
The NCAA Tournament accomplishments of Davidson reflected the lump sum of a rational set of terms more than some sort of discovery of a magic glass slipper. When you add exceptional talent to unceasing hard work to faith in one's teammates to trust in outstanding coaching to the uplifting support of a passionate army of followers, you get the type of performance that Davidson demonstrated in the NCAA Tournament. I guess I just underestimated the absolute value of each term.
Over the past two weeks, this team showed the world, and us locals, that it is a part of one of the elite programs in college basketball. Bob McKillop might only coach in the Southern Conference, Belk Arena might only hold 5,700 people and Stephen Curry might have only gotten scholarship offers from mid-major programs, but Davidson's Basketball program, the sum of all its parts, is undeniably elite.
So maybe those Detroit locals were right that we'd be back in Detroit this time next March. Maybe my Mom was right in suggesting that since Kansas was graduating so many players, we'd be able to knock them off next year. Maybe Jason Richards, Thomas Sander and Boris Meno will get to join the elite company of all of the great Davidson basketball alums before them as they move to the front row of the cheering section and marvel at the continuation of a very special and successful basketball program.
This is a program of trust, commitment and care. But there is also hope. Hope that can never be shattered like the glass of Cinderella's slipper. Hope that knows that Davidson will return next year, and the year after, and the year after that.
Monday, March 31, 2008
Walking out of Ford Field after Davidson's 57-59 loss to top-seeded Kansas in the Elite 8, I felt every single emotion imaginable: pain at watching my friend and classmate sit at center court after missing the game-winning shot...happiness that these Wildcats had advanced so far and fought so valiantly...numbness in realizing that I would never again watch a Davidson basketball game as a Davidson student...shattered hope that these Wildcats could fulfill some sort of destiny that seemed right there for the taking.
Posted by Will Bryan at 7:14 PM
Sunday, March 30, 2008
I apologize for getting the live blog going so late. The Elite 8 is not the time for computer trouble. Let's hope we are past it now.
Davidson definitely won that first round as they got several defensive stops on two steals and a block as Kansas' huge offense got a little cocky and forced things that weren't there.
Davidson is getting single coverage on their forwards down low so they are working the ball to them, but Kansas has stopped the Wildcat attack well.
Curry is now 0-2 with two rimouts but the rest of the Wildcats are fighting strong.
14:20 D 2 K 4
Curry leads Davidson's rebounders now which is good...it means that the bigs are taking Kansas' forwards out of the equation.
But Davidson can't get anything offensively. Kansas has arms all over the perimeter and bodies are flying in the post.
Thankfully, Kansas is shooting a low percentage and the Jayhawks are picking up fouls left and right. But with every Wildcat shot that rims out, you feel like it's a missed opportunity for the Final Four. And that you are just waiting for Kansas to turn it on.
Wow...another huge block on Sander inside. The pump fake doesn't work here. Curry still off.
In case you can't tell on TV, this place is so pro-Davidson it's not even funny.
Sander with a big three and Davidson has a one-point lead...Richards all the way and this place is hype.
Lovedale picks up his first foul in commanding fashion sending Jackson to the line and to the floor.
Kansas is currently shooting 3-13 while Davidson is 4-15. The Jayhawks have edges in blocks (3-1) and rebounds (12-8) as expected. Two rounds in and the Wildcats probably have Kansas a little surprised with their defensive athleticism. This isn't a team from the Big East...this is the Southern Conference champion, they are good.
11:03 D 9 K 6
J-Rich launches a shot at the end of the shot clock and Boris tips the rebound away from Andrew...tough tough break. Kansas ties at the other end and Robinson continues to do a good job on Curry...
Lucky karma as Curry hits his first three of the game. That's the NCAA record for Stephen Curry.
Curry in the lane...Curry in the corner...Curry, Curry, Curry.
Rossiter in and he knocks away an inbound. Curry gives this team a confidence that no other challenger to a one seed has.
Three rounds in...Wildcats have it so far. Pressure is starting to squeeze on Kansas. This isn't as easy as they thought it would be.
7:56 D 17 K 16
What a spectacle right in front of me as the Kansas cheerleaders are nearly pleading with the crowd to get loud. They get no response whatsoever. Who'd have thunk that Davidson would have a home-court advantage in Detroit too?
Curry in the lane and he has 10 points.
Chalmers hits a big three to pull Kansas even but Davidson is out running again. And Richards in the lane for two.
Chalmers again. He's got a really nice touch fading away. Of course, so does Stephen Curry...back and forth, back and forth.
Bryant Barr is not on tonight with two pretty bad misses. Those big forwards flying at him clearly messes with him a ton. Like to see Will get a shot out there on the wing. His pump and penetration could slow down their closeouts.
4:59 D 23 K 23
Davidson's double team does great work again forcing another timeout. Kansas only has three left for the whole game. How many times do we have to tell you that you are going to get double-teamed on the low block (hint: I know how to beat it, but I won't tell you).
Meno with a huge play, sacrificing his body to save the ball as the shot clock wound down. Before Kansas could recover it, whistles blew for a violation.
Richards airballs from the top of the key with another long arm flying at him. But Davidson's defense continues to be the story of this team...it is so underrated and unheralded, but it is the reason that Kansas hasn't stomped on Davidson yet. Heck, they aren't even beating them at this point. Gregg Doyel has practically said that Davidson would win the game if it got to this point.
Davidson's mini pressure doesn't work that time as Kansas' forward doesn't have to shoot a floater but goes right over Lovedale in the lane. This strategy worked against Georgetown because their forward stopped to shoot. Not here.
Davidson misses again and Kansas gets to the line...their free throws have been pretty bad thus far, but Davidson has seven team fouls.
Curry gets fouled on a three-point attempt...he was thinking and thinking and thinking about it and Kansas knew it, but they still fouled his arm. Curry having a great half.
Before the game, I talked about the block-to-charge ratio. I thought that if Davidson won it, they could win this game. Right now Davidson has taken two charges and been called for one block on nearly identical plays. Looking good.
1:17 D 28 K 28
3 charges to 1 block.
Kansas with a nice play to end the half as they sensed the double team and dished to the baseline. I sometimes wonder why these teams don't do that on every play. You look at that and wonder how they are only up by two at the half.
Davidson is killed on the boards, but they are playing strong on their 50-50 balls. Not much foul trouble either. Call me crazy, but I think that Davidson is going to win this game. The Wildcats have outscored their oppponents by large margins in every second half of this NCAA Tournament. They will only have to score three more points than Kansas to win this one. That's one Stephen Curry three-pointer from the corner. I think it's going to happen.
Halftime D 28 K 30
Curry...what a release...I have no idea how he got that three off. Kansas' inside game vs. Curry. Davidson needs a couple more jumpshots from everyone else.
Monster pass from Richards to Sander for the layup and the foul.
The newspaper writers from the Daily Kansan ask me if Curry will be the first Davidson player to leave early for the NBA. I pause and stare at him before I break out Mike Maloy.
Kansas plays size ball as Kahn gets an alley-oop and Kansas rebounds the free throw.
Lovedale now has three fouls. They are going right at him. Thankfully, Kansas can't hit free throws...that's 2-7 for the game.
The Wildcats really need to get some jumpers from people other than Curry. MPG skies for the rebound and Kahn picks up his third foul.
First round of the second half done and Davidson won it by 2.
15:51 D 35 K 35
Lovedale with a monster rebound and sticks it back. Holy cow...he's playing with three fouls and a lot of time. But God knows we need him.
Kansas athleticism coming into play with a big steal and getting hands on Rossiter's outlet pass. What an up and down game. Kansas is not playing that well but they have kept Curry out of it in the last few minutes.
Lovedale barely misses another tough shot...and the fouls are mounting on Davidson as Kansas gets to the bucket.
Kansas is going to go on runs but you have to limit it and not create permanent damage (a la major foul trouble). Curry is getting pushed to halfcourt.
Kansas drives on Barr and gets the shot and the foul. And the free throws are starting to go down.
Kansas' bench right in front of me has energy for the first time tonight.
Round two to Kansas.
11:59 D 38 K 43
Bryant Barr hits from the corner but Curry turns it over and Kansas dunks. And Barr again. Two huge threes to cut it to 1.
And Lovedale scores and is fouled. Crowd erupts as Davidson takes back the lead. This is the Sweet Caroline round and Davidson wants to go into it with momentum...two and a half more minutes.
Every empty Kansas possession causes raucous cheers from the crowd. Bryant BARR!!!!! Three huge ones.
And Curry stops on a dime and hits mid-range. Max goes flying out of bounds and comes screaming back into the play.
Kansas uses a timeout and Davidson emphatically wins that round. I don't half mind Curry at the point. It opens up alot.
7:30 D 51 K 47
Kansas with a mini-run off a bad J-Rich turnover and a big Kansas three. Sweet Caroline could have been better thirty seconds before.
Curry had a little too much adrenaline on that three as he has a capella Sweet Caroline echoing.
Bryant Barr with his 11th point underneath. But Kansas is eating Davidson alive in the paint.
Dangerous time right here with Davidson down three on defense. Get the stop and Meno saves a bad pass, but Richards turns it over. Cmon buddy.
Final round and Davidson trails by three. This is it. No more turnovers.
3:31 D 53 K 56
Lovedale gets an o-rebound but didn't get the foul call as went back up. He then picks up a frustration one and then gets his fifth on the other end. He's done....what a standing ovation. Let's go Rossiter.
Kahn at the line and Kansas looks to be in the driver's seat. Barr almost turns it over. And Curry just can't get a shot.
Kansas ball and we are getting close to being cooked.
Richards steals and Curry has the chance...but the miracle isn't there.
Kansas on the line up four ...1:15 left. Up five. Davidson needs a few miracles now. Down six.
Curry misses another good look. It feels like we've dried up of the big shots here in the end. Time is ticking, and it looks like the Elite 8 curse might still be in effect.
59.8 sec D 53 K 59
Sander has the layup but gets fouled and misses it. On the line...hits the first. Do you play it out or foul? Misses the second and Kansas tips it out of bounds. Davidson ball, down 5.
Curry for a long three! And timeout. Davidson down 2. Miracles...miracles...miracles...need one or two more...what is that about shooters need to keep shooting?
Kansas misses and Davidson gets the ball, down 2. Need a miracle. Who's going to shoot it? My money is on Bryant Barr...Curry is going to get all of the attention.
16 sec D 57 K 59
Richards gets the look at the top of the key and misses left. Davidson came so close. Oh so close.
All 1 seeds advance for the first time ever, but I bet your money wasn't on a 10 seed to have a shot to win at the end.
Davidson's miracle season ends one shot from the Final Four once again.
For the illustrious careers of Thomas Sander, Boris Meno and Jason Richards...we thank you.
Final D 57 K 59
An early morning saw Davidson students dragging out of bed to come down to the hotel lobby to film a short segment for ABC's Good Morning America. The network grabbed the current and former student body presidents, the senior cheerleading captain, threw in some stereotypes and got out of dodge.
...Tiny Davidson where the quirky little students act so cute with their textbooks and their Neil Diamond...
The students might not have the voice to express it, but they are tired of being patronized 15-year olds in an adult world. They are tired of reading about how cute and feel-good their team is in a college basketball world of pre-professional men with full-grown facial hair. They are tired of the stereotypes that say that these kids don't belong in downtown Detroit, so they should just go home to their suburbia where everyone loves everyone else in some surreal bubble.
Today, Davidson gets to grow up in everyone's mind. And when they do, the world will realize that the hearts, passion and wherewithall of our students and players are even more mature than X-big school with their hundreds of thousands of fans and proverbial facial hair.
Dropped off in downtown Detroit at high noon, I was with a group that took over a local burger joint and filled it with Wildcat red. Natives with Red Wings gear came in and gawked at the tables of Davidson students singing to the 60's music blaring from the jukebox. One Kansas couple came in and walked back out immediately.
Davidson is formidable in this town today. The school is not just formidable because every non-Jayhawk fan is pulling for the Wildcats, but because there has been a transformation in this student body. Over half of Davidson's students will be here tonight and all of them know the score. This isn't the same student body that left games early to go do homework. This is no longer the group of kids that largely had no idea what was going on down there on the court. This year has been Big Time Basketball 101 and these students are ready for their final exam.
I sit here in the media room right now and watch as Memphis creeps closer to being the third #1 seed to reach the Final Four. I read Gregg Doyel's column about how Kansas is bigger, faster, stronger and they should be able to drive Davidson into the ground. On paper, this is supposed be one of the biggest blowouts in regional final history. Davidson doesn't have a chance, right?
But here's the coolest part...no one cares. Davidson students aren't fretting about what they can do about slowing down all those McDonald's All-Americans. They know exactly what is going to happen tonight...Davidson will play to win, they will get better, and they will have a whole lot of fun. And when the eight-minute mark of the second half rolls around, Davidson could be on the verge of doing something historic, or they could just be fighting to make it respectable...but either way, these Davidson fans clad in red will lead a rousing chorus for the world to join in on.
Oh Sweet Caroline...these good times have never felt so good...I'm completely inclined...to believe they'd never would.
Saturday, March 29, 2008
ABC network's Good Morning America: Weekend Edition will be broadcasting live on Sunday morning from the Doubletree hotel lobby where over 300 Davidson students are staying. The show comes on at 7 a.m. and goes to 8 a.m.
Wildcat students have gained national fame for making the trip to Detroit free off of the generosity of the school's trustees. Last night, students sported "Witness" t-shirts in Davidson's blowout Sweet 16 victory over Wisconsin.
This will be the second time this week that Davidson has made the morning show circuit. CBS' Early Show came to Davidson's campus last Thursday.
We all thought that the spotlight was blinding last week as CBS, ESPN, and Sports Illustrated descended on our campus, at this point we are just closing our eyes and holding on to each other for dear life.
Upon getting to the hotel last night, Davidson students weren't just exclaiming about how they can't wait to read about this team in tomorrow's papers, they were also pumped about getting to read about themselves. Swarms of reporters and camera people have mobbed this now-famous student body because of their free trip to Detroit and their undying devotion to America's basketball team.
"They put my picture in the Detroit paper...I was quoted in the Cleveland paper...I was in the Charlotte Observer..."
Clad in our red "Witness" t-shirts, the hundreds of Davidson students in this Dearborn hotel have a pretty imposing appearance. This morning, students back on campus learned that they would be able to come up for Sunday's Elite 8 game as the Trustees found another five buses for another 250 students to support the Cats.
And while the Davidson Wildcats' men's basketball team continues to transcend the stereotypes of low-seeded, mid-major teams, Davidson's student body has done nothing but uphold many of the stereotypes cultivated about them.
"So I guess you guys will have to study all day tomorrow," joked a reporter after the game.
"Well, yeah, we will."
The hotel lobby is currently filled with Davidson students and their laptops, typing away at papers and reading up for next week's tests. The Wildcats are forty minutes away from the Final Four, and yet the foremost thing on everyone's mind today is next week's academic assignments.
You work hard and have fun in the basketball arena, but academics remain all-important. Davidson students and players will be getting back to campus on Monday morning with very little sleep, but they will be expected back in class. That's just how we do things here.
Friday, March 28, 2008
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."
Welcome to the Live Blog of the Sweet Sixteen in Detroit, MI. I came up here virtue of Davidson's trustees who payed for over four hundred students to come Detroit for a free weekend. As I mentioned in that previous post, this city has embraced Davidson and if the Wildcats pull out a win tonight, it will be a fun weekend of revelry with tons of new friends and Wildcat fans.
That being said, we all need to pay attention to the platforms of our major political candidates because the poor economy has really hit Detroit hard. Over half of all the buildings in the middle of downtown seemed to be boarded up. This city needs some life back.
But on to basketball. Ford Field is as huge as advertised and they added a couple of feet of soft padding on the edge of the court all the way around so we still hope that no one goes flying off the three foot drop. It will be interesting to watch substitutions on the fly as bench players have to climb onto the court to run over to the scorers table. I also feel like the noise won't be much of a factor either way here. The band sound is hooked up to the complex's speaker system and the crowd seems very faint way back behind me.
Alright Davidson taking the court now. No nerves here, Ms. Biggers from View from Press Row says she's nervous, but I don't see any reason to be. The players are relaxed, the coaching staff is prepared and the stage is set for something special tonight.
Curry with a steal and feed to Lovedale for the game's first basket. Wisconsin doesn't look scary but they aren't bad. Lovedale picks up his first foul just a minute in, which isn't good. It looked like a clean block.
Long rebound that Lovedale chases but has to let go. If that is in Raleigh he flies out of bounds to save it.
Butch with a three and Curry answers. It is so quiet on the court. I am floored by this. How can you have such a big event and have it sound like a funeral.
Bad possession for Davidson as Richards takes too long to get things going, but Max gets a steal and then gets points underneath. Wisconsin answers by hitting the side of the backboard. Wow.
Davidson's defense is the story right now with two steals while Wisconsin hasn't been able to deny open shots for the Wildcats.
15:34 D 7 W 5
Davidson comes out of the media with the same lineup. Five minutes in and no subs yet.
Outside shooting is sketchy and it's no mystery why. They shouldn't be playing basketball in this place.
Offensive foul on Lovedale and the Wildcats are in trouble. That's two for him just like against Georgetown. Meno will have to play very confidently to sky for some rebounds. Rossiter and Archambault see their first looks...Curry has only hit one shot so far.
Make that two. Flowers got through the first screen but the second one tripped him up.
Flowers goes after a loose one and is the first to leave the court right in front of me.
Richards with a huge three with an expiring shot clock and Davidson takes the lead back. The Wildcats have nine of their thirteen from three point range and they will probably keep shooting out there because of what happened on Archambault's last drive to the hoop. He got packed.
11:56 D 13 W 10
Badger guard Trevon Hughes is getting some wrapping on his right ankle right in front of me.
The Badgers continue to swing the ball well and are getting their three-point looks. Archambault with a huge three-pointer from the corner and then Sander gets a basket before Wisconsin can set up.
Refs are calling hand checks on Davidson's big men on the perimeter. That isn't good, especially because they haven't been called on Davidson at all before in this tournament.
Wisconsin is using their rebounding to some advantage now as they get some second-chance looks and knock down threes only because of their height advantage.
But Curry is having an explosive half himself with three threes...and then Flowers hits a three. The outside shooting has come alive.
They just showed a replay of Curry's last j and he definitely picked up his pivot foot. The Wisconsin fans are trying to show disapproval but you just can't hear them. It's almost boring down here.
6:02 D 25 W 28
Richards for three. Barr for three. I remember this team now. And then Lovedale with a huge baseline J and Wisconsin burns a timeout. Davidson with a five point lead.
And Jason Richards has just tied Ali Ton's mark for most career assists in a Wildcat uniform.
Word on the street is that Lebron James is sitting behind Davidson's Joey Beeler. Maybe Joey will get on TV. Again.
Wisconsin's big men are much "bigger" than either Georgetown's or Gonzaga's. They use their height to block shots, sky for rebounds and hit easy layups. This was what was supposed to happen to Davidson last weekend.
Brian Butch got poked in the eye on that last play where Meno interfered with the ball in the cylinder. We will see if it affects him.
2:43 D 33 W 33
Offensive rebounds are the story of this game right now. Wisconsin has an 8-2 edge. But then Davidson has shot 8-14 from three point land so that's why we're so even.
Oooh...tough foul call with no time left on the shot clock and four second left in the half. Davidson has played very tough defensively, but Wisconsin has a real big size advantage (15-5 on second chance points, 17-7 on rebounds).
But Davidson has not turned the ball over much and have a 4:1 assist ratio. They have pretty much played the best offensive half in a long time and yet they still had a few shots rim out that could have dropped. Nearly sixty percent from three does not happen every day. Jason Richards' six first-half assists are enough to pass Ali Ton for tops all-time. Davidson's all-time assist leader is Jason Richards with 647 and counting.
It is really hard to judge momentum right now. Wisconsin has shown that they can score in an easier fashion (layups being easier than threes), but they have also demonstrated that they can't shut down Davidson's outside game. In a smaller arena, I'd give the Wildcats the edge since they should have the crowd on their side in the second half, but that really doesn't seem to matter here.
Half D 36 W 36
We open the half with a very ugly Curry three-pointer followed by another miss on the next possession. But two defensive stops turning into transition opps renders four points and two Wisconsin fouls.
Three Curry defensive stops now. And this is how Davidson does it. You have to hit your shots or Davidson will run you to death.
Wow...five fouls on Wisconsin now just three minutes into this half. No individual is in trouble but Davidson will be shooting free throws soon.
Andrew Lovedale with a huge dunk! And Davidson has a six-point lead.
And Curry is fouled going into the media. Round 1 of the second half goes unequivocally to Davidson. Everyone, including myself, repeatedly overlooks Davidson's defense and that has been the driving force behind this little run.
But the Wildcats now have to do what they did last weekend and not last year. You don't win the game with 16 minutes remaining. They have to keep winning the rounds.
15:57 D 44 W 38
So the media get food service here on press court at Ford Field. They have some ladies that go around with snack trays and I have been killing some Skittles.
Wisconsin picks up their seventh foul blocking out on free throws and Davidson is going to the line from here on out.
Wow...whistles are going nuts. Two quick ones on Davidson that possession off the ball. Lovedale, Sander and Richards have two.
And a third on that possession and Sander has three. Bo Ryan has been in their ear. Four fouls. Same possession. This is freaking ridiculous.
Sander and Lovedale both have three fouls and are still in the game.
And Curry pumps...sends a Badger flying...and hits his second straight three. The crowd is mesmerized by this kid. Twenty three points for Curry and twelve in the second half. Lebron is on his feet.
13:01 D 54 W 45
Lebron James makes the big screen and the Detroit Pistons fan boo.
Flowers and Curry go up for an inbound and Flowers comes down hard. Instead of going for the loose ball, Curry stands next to Flowers to see if he's alright. Wow.
Richards for three! And the barrage continues. Meno with a steal. Davidson misses on two shots and a Wildcat three that is launched a second after the shot clock isn't counted as it banks in. Fans go nuts...what is happening in front of us? Davidson up 12 with 11 minutes remaining. Wisconsin is shell-shocked.
Curry with a crossover and a three. Lebron goes nuts (I love how we are measuring this by his reactions now). Curry has 26.
Flop action by Wisconsin and Curry picks up a charge on the perimeter. Fans didn't like that one. The Badgers have a hard time scoring.
Flowers gets fouled underneath and Curry goes to help him out...Flowers will have none of it as he jumps straight to his feet. Don't diss Stephen Curry.
What'd I tell you. All the way to the hoop and the foul on the reverse layup. Don't mess with Stephen Curry.
A huge minute for Davidson. If they can get another basket into the Sweet Caroline...this place will burst. Dangit as Sander misses underneath.
But Lovedale does get a punctuation mark with a dunk and a foul and the students want Sweet Caroline.
7:57 D 65 W 48
Davidson has to keep pushing their advantage right now. Thankfully Wisconsin is still missing threes...but Davidson can't just try to run out the clock. That's not what got them here. They have to keep scoring.
Andrew Lovedale to the line and the arena burts out with boos...but it's not because of Andrew. Lebron James just exited through the media tunnel and the fans rained down their hate.
Wisconsin is ice-cold from three right now. The Davidson fans can feel it as Curry gives Davidson a 21-point lead.
Wisconsin gets an easy layup, and calls a quick timeout to try to refocus. But I don't think that it is lack of focus that is giving Stephen Curry 31 points...
The Badgers cannot hit shots. I'm starting to do the math now...four minutes, 35 second possessions, 18 point lead.
Four minutes...cmon Cats. Pull off another miracle.
The students are going nuts up in their section. You can't hear them down here, but it looks like they are having fun.
3:49 D 69 W 51
Davidson has been slack offensively, but the defense is keeping the pressure on. Tick tick tick.
Wisconsin getting to the line through some cheap calls but they aren't converting. If the Badgers had been trying this banger thing about 10 minutes ago, I would have been scared. But they shot themselves out of it by missing threes.
Tick tick tick.
From the student writers for Kansas: "I mean why would he have wanted to go to Virginia Tech. Davidson has a better basketball tradition now."
Cmon Cats. Put this one away with substance, don't walk to the finish.
I don't even feel all that giddy. Davidson is a better team. This isn't miraculous at all anymore. Davidson is in the Elite 8. There. I said it. Wow, that felt good.
1:15 D 73 W 56
Never thought we would see Civi Time in the NCAA Tournament. What planet is this? And Mike Schmitt checks in. He didn't get PT against Furman! Now it's sinking in...Davidson is one of the best eight teams in the country in my book. Now miracles...pure talent.
Let's keep the dream alive, Cats! This is a statement to the rest of college basketball. 2008 is the year of the Cat!
Final Davidson 73 Wisconsin 56
This trip started at 4 am this morning when I, along with at least 400 other students, rolled out of bed, threw some clothes in a bag and made a zombie-like exodus from Sentelle, Cannon, Watts, Little Belk and Senior Apartments over to the Baker Parking Lot to board the famous "free buses."
Local news was there to chart the famous boarding. There were here when we de-boarded and the AP already wants some quotes on how it went.
Well, it was a bus trip. We slept most of the morning. Watched Remember the Titans in the afternoon. Lunched at a McDonalds in Strasburg, OH and then rolled into Detroit two hours before gametime.
But then it got interesting. As we got off the bus a couple blocks from Ford Field, we were met by a staff member who had some t-shirts for us. Turns out, the athletic department splurged for hundreds of red shirts that say WITNESS with the Nike swoosh on the front. It wasn't lost on these Davidson students that the originator of Nike's Witness campaign, Lebron James, will be in the building tonight. Just a day or two ago he was quoted in a ESPN article saying that Stephen Curry was definitely the most exciting player in the NCAA Tournament.
As we students walked towards the stadium, complete strangers on the street started chanting Davidson. A local radio staffer handed out placards with Davidson's logo on it. I've never seen so much Wildcat stuff in my life. The coolest part was seeing my comrades' reaction. We had an idea about how famous we are as a student body, but until you get off campus and see it in practice, it does not seem real. If the Wildcats win tonight, I couldn't even imagine what comes next.
Posted by Will Bryan at 6:30 PM
Thursday, March 27, 2008
While all of the Davidson historians among us have been quick to look to the 1960's for a context for this Davidson run and its subsequent ridiculousness, I want to argue that maybe Davidsonians can also look to a more recent example of a watershed moment in Davidson athletics for some context on this Sweet 16 experience.
In 1992, Davidson College was selected to host the National Semifinals of the NCAA Men's Soccer championship. Little did Davidson know that they would be playing in those very same national semifinals (The Final Four!) on their home field by the end of the year. That was a year when things stopped at Davidson...students could hardly focus on class...newspaper reporters seemed to pop up behind every oak tree, and the Wildcats just seemed to keep on winning despite improbable odds. Davidson beat UNC-Charlotte and Coastal Carolina on penalty kicks before knocking off N.C. State in overtime to earn a berth in the Final Four. Although the Wildcats did not reach the national title game, the legacy of those years still lives on.
When I ran into Matt Spear, Davidson's current men's soccer coach and member of that 1992 team, in the athletic complex today, the parallels between the two teams hit me before either of us could get a word out.
"There are definitely some huge similarities but differences too," Spear said. "Rob Ukrop and Stephen Curry are very similar in my mind in that they were really under-recruited and very talented. They both have an incredible humility about them and quick to put the team first in everything. They are once-in-a-generation players who are tailor-made for these watershed moments."
Ukrop was an All-American soccer player who was highly under-recruited, but ended up winning the Adi Dassler award as the nation's top senior. He scored more goals than anyone in college soccer that year.
But even more compelling than the athletic accomplishments and national success was the way that Davidson's community responded to those giddy times.
"Because of the nature of soccer and basketball and the prevalence of the internet, you see that this Sweet 16 trip gets a whole lot more national play than we got," Spear said. "But because we were playing the Final Four in Davidson, I actually think that the local hysteria was pretty comparable."
In a 2002 article by Davidson alum Michael Kruse, he claimed that the Davidson soccer team was "doing it all, it seemed, on a different campus, at a different college, in a different town. The students had cause to celebrate each other, for the tournament run was, if nothing else, tangible, watchable, cheerable proof that little Davidson could make it big."
It didn't take soccer alum Preston Davis nearly as long as myself to figure out this angle, as he already has a post up over on Charlotte Magazine about those incredible weeks of soccer euphoria.
But while these two events will certainly give Davidson folks a set of memories through which they will always connect, the question remains as to how long-lasting the impact will be. Davidson soccer has not returned to the Final Four since 1992. Will Davidson basketball be able to replicate this incredible run in the coming years? Will people still remember where the school is come April or May?
"I promise you that there will be ripple effects in ways that you can and can't see for a long time to come," Spear said. "I definitely believe this will help all of our athletic programs, not just men's basketball."
So many things have already been revolutionized around this school. Davidson gear is being sold in area sporting goods stores. Athletic department staff have been able to provide savvy media facilitation and have used the close proximity of Charlotte, NC to market the program. And we have all seen the actions of the trustees in going out on financial limbs for their students whether it is for basketball or financial aid.
I see one of the biggest lasting effects of this weekend on Davidson's own Bob McKillop.
"More so than at any point in my life, I am at peace right now," McKillop said in Thursday's NCAA news conference, trying to fight back tears. McKillop has spent so many years knocking on the doors of perfection and success. Now he is in the Sweet 16.
Not five minutes after that comment, ESPN.com's Andy Katz came on to answer whether McKillop would remain the coach at Davidson.
"You heard him, didn't you?" Katz replied. "He is completely comfortable where he is right now. I think that a lot of smaller program coaches often get to a point where they have to make very hard decisions and do either the right or the wrong thing with their lives. We saw what Gregg Marshall did last year. I wonder if he doesn't wish he was still at Winthrop."
And so the Madness continues. Davidson keeps reaching higher and they keep proclaiming their mission ever louder. But as Kruse wrote back in 2002, "that [soccer] group doesn't so much remember the shots or the saves or the scores; what remains fresh is the feeling, the ringing in their ears, the slow and steady buzz that never, ever totally goes away."
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
We last saw our adventurers at Belk Arena on Feb. 16 when they shot some handycam shootage of Stephen Curry and Dell with a bludgeoning of conference foe Furman going on in the background. But then I saw our boys back in Raleigh with that same ol Handycam...and then again on campus on Tuesday. They just can't get enough.
I won't embed their videos this time because they just start playing as soon as you open the page and that gets annoying, but you can watch them one click away right here (McKillop interview this week) and here (Davidson celebration after Georgetown).
You can also read some of their blog entries from Friday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, all with plenty of great Wildcat love to go around. Another group of writers, more Wildcat converts. Thanks for the great coverage CSTV!
To all Davidson Students: Given the extraordinary nature of the success of the men's basketball team, Davidson's Trustees have graciously offered to pay the expenses of those students who are able to attend the game in Detroit on Friday night. We realize that for some students, academic and other obligations will preclude taking advantage of this offer. Please note that classes are NOT cancelled on Friday.
We all know that, at Davidson, academics come first. This offer is not intended to encourage students to miss classes. Students, please consider going to the game ONLY if this is, academically, the right decision for you. For those of you who cannot go to Detroit, the game will be shown on the large screen in the Alvarez College Union and there will be plenty of Davidson Wildcat spirit here on campus.
For those of you who are able to attend without detriment to your academics, please follow the instructions below:
If you want to attend the games in Detroit and do not yet have a ticket, you must email Traci Russ-Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org by 4:00 pm today.
The bus will leave at approximately 6 a.m. on Friday morning. It is approximately an 11 hour ride to Detroit. We will make hotel reservations for you ( 2 students per room). Tickets are for Sessions 1 and 2. If Davidson wins on Friday night, they will play again on Sunday afternoon (exact time not yet known). Win or lose, the bus will leave on Sunday afternoon after the Session 2 game ends. You will most likely arrive back in Davidson on Monday morning between 4 am and 6 am.
If you have already booked a package with the bus that leaves campus on Friday morning (bus, tickets, hotel), then your credit card will not be charged. If you have purchased a ticket and are handling transportation and lodging on your own, then you will be reimbursed for the face value of the ticket only. All of this will be handled next week.
We are so grateful that our Trustees, on their own initiative, have so generously offered this gift to Davidson students. For many reasons this week, including our Trustees' support and commitment to our students, it is a great day to be a Wildcat.
-- Tom Ross
Posted by Will Bryan at 3:26 PM
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
"So is it pretty crazy back on your campus this morning?" asked Joe Reporter.
"Actually there aren't any students here because of Easter Break," answered Jason Richards.
It seemed so ironic that during Davidson's biggest weekend in decades, all of its students were home celebrating a religious holiday. But while the students did not come back until Tuesday evening for Wednesday classes, there was something very special and beautiful about this campus over the last two days.
The clues that something remarkable had happened were everywhere. The school police bought out the bookstore's supply of car flags (which was only about 15-20 to start with) and hooked them to the top of their windows. The Wildcat had a stuffed dog in its mouth, while Coach McKillop's house was covered in toilet paper.
Belk Arena was completely dark except for a small light deep in the dungeon of the complex. The Sports Information office was buzzing as phones rang with interview requests from all parts of the country. The lone printer buzzed and clanged as it printed off article after article from every newspaper in the country. The union was filled with mini basketball hoops, an arcade hoops game next to the fireplace, and full-sized basket in the bottom atrium where a handful of students played knockout.
A CBS film crew arrived on campus bright and early on Tuesday looking for scenic shots.
"We would have loved to have gotten shots of students going to class, but we got some incredible views of the sun coming up over the old well. This place is absolutely beautiful. The serenity of this morning made it seem so special."
But as the sun rose higher, the activity level followed a positive correlation. In just over two hours during the afternoon, most of the bookstore's new shipment of Sweet 16 shirts had sold out. Outside on Davidson's brick sidewalks, a local news crew got shots of members of Davidson's cheerleading squad and Mr. Cat. Students filled up the last available parking spots and made it to their room to find an email from the Dean of Students announcing that the CBS Early Show would be broadcasting live from Davidson on Thursday morning.
By the evening, campus was packed again. The Union Cafe was filled with kids sporting newly bought red t-shirts as we all replayed the events of the weekend over and over again.
"We are famous...I can't believe it."
Yes, we are. Yes, we are.
Posted by Will Bryan at 8:03 PM
Monday, March 24, 2008
Davidson is a college, not a university, located in North Carolina right outside of Charlotte. This school is home to 1,700 students with academic profiles comparable to the Ivy League schools of the north. Davidson students earn liberal arts degrees where they study music, history, english, Classics, math and science to cultivate a well-rounded academic experience. There is no such thing as a business, journalism, marketing or accounting major at Davidson. All of the athletes are held to the same academic standards as everyone else at Davidson and the basketball team is not given special tutors or study sessions to give them any edge.
Davidson takes pride in its basketball program. Davidson students own the national mark for highest percentage of a student body that attends basketball games throughout a season. The Davidson community has embraced the basketball program often with memories of the Elite 8 runs of Lefty Driesell when he coached Davidson in the 1960's.
Davidson's "song," Sweet Caroline, was started last year by a marketing assistant who knew how much students like to sing along at campus parties. After playing it during a conference home game, the crowd continued the chorus a cappella during an opponent's free throw and he missed. The song has been a staple of Davidson games ever since.
Davidson's Stephen Curry continues to be one of the best players in the country that people don't know that much about. He is the son of former NBA star Dell Curry and his name is pronounced Steff-in...not Steve-in or Steph-awwnn. He chose Davidson after being passed over from ACC schools for being too small. He has subsequently grown into the nation's leader in three-pointers and a second-team All-American. Curry will not be leaving Davidson this spring for the NBA. And it's not because he wouldn't be that high of a draft pick. If Davidson won the national championship, Curry would still stay.
Davidson point guard Jason Richards was a preseason nominee for the Bob Cousy Award for the best point guard in the country. He did not make it as a finalist in one of the worst errors by an awarding body in college basketball this season. Richards leads the nation in assists this season after finishing second last year, and has been the team leader on and off the court for the Sweet 16-bound Wildcats. Jason is not the son of Richard, so please stop calling him Jason Richardson. He plays for the Bobcats down the road.
Davidson scheduled one of the nation's toughest out-of-conference schedules as they took on UCLA, North Carolina and Duke. After dropping those games by an average of seven points, the Wildcats went on to lose games against WMU, Charlotte and N.C. State. Davidson was written off a small-time program trying to bite off more than they could chew. The national public saw six losses and thought the scheduling move was a failure because Davidson played itself out of the at-large picture. But the Wildcats haven't lost since their 1-point falter at N.C. State. They gained the confidence to play against Kevin Love and Tyler Hansbrough. Against Gonzaga's Heytfelt and Georgetown's Hibbert, they showed no fear. Those games directly link to Davidson's success in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
So that's us. That's Davidson. We've had to tell our story over and over again to the next big-time program that's come in front of us. But we kind of like it when everyone writes us off. We like it when the Southern Conference gets so sick and tired of us winning all the time. We like it when people taunt Stephen Curry by saying he's too young or Jason Richards by saying he's too slow. We like our odds from our 6-7ish frontline against your 7-0 frontline. We like it when you know you are going to beat us. We like that you have no idea what we are made of. We have the types of souls that don't quit when down 17 to a team from last year's Final Four. We always believe. Heck, we are David. Just give us a few more rocks for that slingshot, we have a few more giants to kill.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Davidson was just supposed to come into this NCAA Tournament and play to win. They were supposed to get better. And they were supposed to have fun. Everything else was deemed gravy. I'm not sure if the Wildcats can stomach this much gravy.
Davidson overcame a 17-point deficit in the second half to come back and beat the Hoyas from Georgetown, 74-70. With the win, the Wildcats advance to the Sweet 16 in Detroit to face the third-seeded Wisconsin Badgers.
The Wildcats looked dead in the water at several instances as stud sophomore Stephen Curry got in foul trouble and only scored five points in the first half.
As he did against Gonzaga on Friday, Jason Richards kept the Wildcats in the game by attacking the gigantic Georgetown forwards and getting them in foul trouble. Richards finished with 20 points and five assists.
The CBS Highlights will once again show several Stephen Curry shots from late in the game as helped give Davidson a lead it would never relinquish, scoring 30 points including a 9-10 performance from the line. But the story of this comeback was Davidson's defense.
The Wildcats forced 20 Georgetown turnovers and they converted those into 20 points on the other end. Those turnovers were crucial to Davidson being able to overcome Georgetown's 63% shooting mark from the field.
"At halftime, we made a slight adjustment with our pressure," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "And that put them out of rhythm. It all started with that."
With the momentum from big defensive stops, Davidson was able to bring the crowd back in the game and force Georgetown into a pressured mental state. The Hoyas keyed on Curry and he found Wildcat forwards for easy layups.
"They were swamping me everywhere," Curry said. "But Jason took advantage of that. Our big guys did a heck of a job down low."
Andrew Lovedale, Boris Meno, Steve Rossiter, and Thomas Sander had the games of their lives as they continued to battle with Georgetown's big forwards, forcing DaJuan Summers and Roy Hibbert to commit eight turnovers and only hit seven field goals.
Sander's play was particularly awe-inspiring as he battled through an injured thumb to record eight points and bring down six rebounds. He put his body on the line constantly, taking the brunt of Roy Hibbert and drawing several offensive fouls on the Hoyas. He earned a standing ovation when he fouled out at the end of the game.
But ultimately, this game won't be remembered for the stat lines or any particular "Pontiac Game Changing Moment."
Davidson fans will remember this one forever because the Cats overcame so much when the threes weren't falling. They fought even when the shots weren't going in. Even when the crowd of North Carolina faithful stopped cheering, the Wildcats didn't give in.
"There was never a moment when we thought that we couldn't win this game," Jason Richards said. "You can't think you're not going to win the game. Instead I told Steph just to keep with it and keep shooting."
Eventually, the defensive pressure led to two-pointers. Then the twos begat threes, and the crowd was back in it for Davidson's signature Sweet Caroline moment.
"That's our anthem," Richards said. "When the whole stadium started singing it and we felt it inside of us, it was just so much fun. If you aren't having fun in the NCAA Tournament, then there is something wrong with you."
By the time I made it to the Davidson locker room, the media crowd has disassembled and the players were left to eat their sandwiches and field text messages. And as the national media gets a whole other week to revel in the uniqueness of Davidson basketball, I fielded some of the most important questions on the minds of these incredible individuals.
"Do you think our professors will be OK with us skipping class this week?"
You know what? I think they will.
Welcome to the Davidson Live Blog...Part II. Press Row is a little less crowded today as the Zags, Hoosiers, UMBC and Mount Saint Mary's headed home. Dining in the media buffet and in some tailgates out in the parking lot, there was definitely a sense of pure enjoyment without all that nervousness we felt on Friday. Davidson certainly wants to win today and go to the Sweet 16, but let's face it, the Wildcats are playing with house money and the pressure is firmly on the Hoyas from Georgetown. We get to be the underdog again! I'm not sweating on my computer keyboard as much today.
The dark blue and grey of the Georgetown Hoyas fills in the sections behind their bench and the rest of the arena is filled with Wildcat red, black and sky blue. These Carolina fans had plenty of reason to cheer for Davidson against Gonzaga. Now they have plenty of reason to cheer against Georgetown as well after the Hoyas knocked them out of the tournament last year.
Thomas Sander is out on the court in shootaround with a big wrap on his right thumb. He will start as far as I know and we will see how effective he can be.
Lefty Driesell is here in the third row behind me and the rest of Friday's crew has returned to their seats for an encore. Michael Kruse is over here now with me and more lucky gum is being chewed in honor of Lauren Biggers who is stuck back in D-Town working the baseball game.
A few statistical notes before we get started:
-Jason Richards is now 10 assists behind Ali Ton for most all-time in a Davidson career. Ali is in attendance here today and probably wouldn't mind if Richards got 11 or 12 dishes.
-With his 8 three-pointers Friday, Stephen Curry moved into first all-time for most three-pointers in a Davidson career with 269, surpassing Brendan Winters. Curry is also 8th all-time in scoring, first all-time in free throw percentage, and seventh all-time in steals.
-The Wildcats are five-point underdogs today and if they pull off the victory, Sander, Richards and Meno will have 100 career victories over the course of the last four years.
And the Wildcats take the court to Welcome to the Jungle...no nerves today. Let's go Cats!
Georgetown fans are really not loud at all in the intros. But then again, the UNC fans aren't helping out yet. I doubt they will expend too much energy unless Davidson can keep it close and keep it exciting. But then every game we have played against a "big" opponent this year, we have hoped to keep it close and we always have.
Lovedale wins the tip against Hibbert and knocks home the first shot of the game. Pressure is on Georgetown. Lovedale again! In Hibbert's face and the foul.
Davidson is not scared of Georgetown's interior guys as Lovedale and Richards attack the paint although unsuccessfully. The rimouts are an early statement, but the passing miscues don't look good so far.
It is really remarkable to watch Sander lean on Hibbert here just 10 feet in front of me.
Hmmm...Lovedale picks up his second foul and Boris will have to step up big on both sides of the floor. That's really bad news about Andrew.
Curry has been shut down pretty well so far as he only has one shot attempt. The perimeter defense on Sander has been pretty tough as well. Give Georgetown some credit that their defense is not overrated. But they are prone to playing too high sometimes...pump fakes leave them looking for big-time blocks and Davidson has gotten under the forwards on several occasions.
15:49 D 4 G 6
Steve, Boris and Will in the game along with Jason and Steph. Any points from those three right now will be really great. Boris had a great chance but was blocked at the rim. That's a dunk in the SoCon.
Jason for three. Jason for two. And then he gets hit with a piss-poor blocking call.
Barr replaces Archambault after a Will airball and Davidson gets Sander back in. Richards playing out of his mind right now.
Thomas fighting and fighting and fighting with Hibbert and Hibbert gets called for the offensive foul. That's two on him and he's on the bench. A Curry three goes to the bottom of the net and finds a way back out. Wow.
Davidson is playing really hard and well right now. Sander with a tip in and takes a charge. JTIII is beside himself as the refs aren't letting the Georgetown bigs get away with too much.
Two rounds in and the Wildcats are right there. Curry hasn't scored a point yet.
11:32 D 13 G 14
Georgetown cheerleaders on the court during the media timeout and they left a sign on the court. The refs gave it to Davidson's cheerleaders who are happy with their prize.
Patrick Ewing with a monster dunk on Curry and then he pushes Richards to the deck on the back end of a fast break. Refs having a word with him, but Georgetown is flexing their muscles as Davidson can't get a shot off.
Curry pumps a three and tries to get to the hole but no dice there either. And a couple more fouls piling up on Davidson's bigs off the ball. Thankfully, Gtown can't shoot free throws.
Curry with a real tough shot from the baseline and he's on the board. Steve takes a charge and the Hoyas didn't do their scouting report. Davidson doesn't block you...they take charges when you are out of control. Good work, John Thompson numero tres. Good work.
Ticky tack fouls on both ends as Meno gets tagged with an off the ball o-foul. But J-Rich penetrates and draws one of his own.
The arena has a piss-poor scoreboard and they only ever show points and fouls once every fifteen minutes and they usually aren't updated. Sorry about the lack of accuracy on both teams' foul situations.
Alright, here we go. Two fouls on Sander and Lovedale and two fouls on Hibbert, Summers and Ewing.
7:58 D 15 G 22
Richards with nine points after two big free throws. Davidson has won that battle so far from the line.
Georgetown missing gimmes but Davidson can't elevate to get the defensive rebounds with Lovedale on the bench.
Archambault can't find it. Man I wish that he would, but he misses two straight threes right off the back iron. They looked pretty decent coming off of his hand, but every wasted offensive possession is very painful at this point as Georgetown as playing at the rim like they should on their side of the ball.
Sander back in and he gets a huge layup and free throw. With him and Lovedale in there, Davidson is a different team on offense and defense. The fouls piling up on both teams now which is advantage to Davidson and their better free throw shooting.
This game has a lot of the same story line as Friday. Davidson looks outmatched, trails most of the half and needs Richards to keep the offense up while Curry can't get it going (this time because of fouls).
Georgetown getting easy layups at this point while Davidson is rotating like mad and trying to draw more and more fouls on the Hoyas. Curry finally back in. He's got to do something offensively to keep the pressure on and keep the crowd from dozing off.
Buckets...buckets...buckets for Georgetown at the front of the rim. And McKillop calls a timeout.
3:45 D 23 G 34
Curry off again after getting beat up on the perimeter. And Freeman hits a dagger three to make the deficit fourteen.
You have to wonder if all of those dagger three-pointers were exhausted on Friday because Davidson can't get anything to fall right now. As I watched Duke fall to West Virginia yesterday as every Nelson three-pointer rimmed out, I got that feeling that Davidson might look like that tomorrow. Too many threes start rimming out and you lose a lot of your gumption. If Davidson can keep this around 10 at the break, they might be able to use the Hoyas' foul trouble against them if it's close at the end.
Cats need a big defensive stop and they get it as the Hoyas travel with the shot clock winding down. 2 big minutes here...Wildcats need that mojo going into the locker room.
Don't get it there as Jason dribbles around the perimeter and throws up an air ball as the shot clock expires. You can't waste that capital that we built on Friday by flopping now.
Here we go. Curry with a simple screen three, offensive foul on Georgetown and Davidson gets the last shot of the half down 11. Will had the three, but lined drived it. Man...the Wildcats needed him so badly today and he doesn't deliver on three huge missed three-pointers.
Curry finished with five points in the half while Richards had 12 points (including 7-8 from the free throw line). Sapp and Macklin split up the scoring for Georgetown with eight apiece while Hibbert and Ewing both had two.
Wildcat fans can on the one hand consider themselves lucky to be down only 11 with Curry only scoring five, but then again the Hoyas had Hibbert on the bench and their defense was stupendous on Curry throughout the moments that he was in the game. Can't reiterate how key Archambault's three would have been there at the end. Such a tough break and season for him. I hope that he gets one more chance here in the second half and delivers.
Halftime D 27 G 38
As I turn in my seat to look at all of those familiar faces in red, I see so many things. If I were but a better writer, I could describe all of those things exactly and fully in words. But all I can write is that there is no remorse now...and yet there is no submission to the fate that all of the Carolina fans have seen and recognized and since gone to the concession stand for a hot dog.
Georgetown scores and Curry's first three is short. Wallace's three is dead on and the lead is back to 16. Sobering seriousness.
But hope remains where hearts are large. Richards keeps taking it to the whole. Curry draws a charge. The Hoyas are hitting threes unemotionally and not caring about rebounds any more. They already have their Detroit hotels picked out. Davidson has more heart than that. But the shots won't fall.
Don't give up. Don't give up. Show the world your hearts, boys.
The Hoyas are playing sloppy, poor basketball. But Davidson can't get the shots to fall.
Richards is knocked to the deck with no foul at the end of the shot clock. It wasn't a bad call because they had all ball, but you want to cry foul. It seems wrong not to.
15:38 D 32 G 46
There is something so musical about Steph's grandmother's pleas to her grandson. "Cmon baby, let's get it together."
Curry for three and he is fouled. Heart has to translate into points now. At the half, I said Steph needed to score 40 this half for Davidson to win. Derek Smith said he would need four point shots to do that. There's one.
A Gtown turnover leads the RBC Center cameras to pan on a silent Patrick Ewing in the stands. Wildcats down 11.
Two missed free throws and J-Rich gets a chance for a three. Lots of anticipation but it rims out. Davidson gets it back on a turnover and they need to get it under 10. Shots won't fall. Shots won't fall. But Davidson keeps getting the ball back.
There it is...Sander with a trash layup and the Carolina fans are into it.
But Gtown responds and Lovedale misses a jumper. So many chances...they were all over the place on that last possession. But now there's only 11:37 left and Davidson can't get the shots to fall. Get the dagger...get it.
As we go into the media timeout, JTIII almost gets a tech as he goes after the ref and the arena moans and screams with disapproval. A bench warning is all that is assessed.
11:37 D 39 G 50
The threes aren't falling but Davidson is finding room inside. Richards with a layup then Lovedale. Pressure is on the Hoyas and the UNC fans are into it. Offensive foul and the Wildcats are translating it. Translate that heart into production. Davidson in the bonus now.
Curry can't make it fall. Too many misses. Davidson's defense has shut them down but the threes won't fall.
Screw media decorum because I just pumped my fist on that one right in front of me. I want to go to Detroit. Four point game.
If only that would have come a few attempts ago, Davidson would have the lead. Either way, they have the crowd and the Hoyas feel really small right now.
9:18 D 46 G 50
Hibbert can't pull down an offensive rebound and Steph finds Lovedale on the other end to cut it to two. Georgetown scores and Davidson needs a big shot going into the media timeout. J-Rich does it by drawing the foul.
Sweet Caroline and the band and students are ready. Georgetown fans sit on their hands and can do nothing but watch. Dell Curry and Lefty Driesell watch with half-smiles.
Richards with two huge free throws out of the break and it's a two-point game again. This place is loud.
Curry is fouled on a three-point pump fake and he throws it up anyway. It comes close to going in but they only give him two free throws. Two point game again.
Sander picks up foul number four on a loose ball and they keep him in there. Sapp hits a huge three for Georgetown. But CURRY ANSWERS! He's only got 17 points and the Cats are only down 2?!? Wow.
6:22 D 55 G 57
Huge defensive stop for Davidson and Max gets fouled off the ball. Davidson in the double bonus. And Mad Max ties the game at 57.
OOoohh...so close to a charge but they call a blocking foul on Stephen Curry. Game for the ages right here folks.
Missed the second free throw...and Curry on a backdoor cut, hits the layup and GETS FOULED! The entire blue ocean across from me rises in unison. That's a North Carolina boy right there. And this state is red and black right now. Davidson with a two point lead.
But Curry picks up his fourth foul reaching in. Can't take him out now, but Georgetown knows where to attack.
Curry all the way to the hole. THEY CAN'T STOP YOU!
Watch out Stephen! as he almost fouls a three-point attempt. Davidson ball...up two.
STEPHEN CURRY!!!!! For three!!!
Five point Davidson lead.
2:41 D 65 G 60
Max forces a Gtown timeout out of the last timeout and I think that we still have a media timeout left. Hearts of Lions!
Georgetown finally gets it in but Thomas Sander picks up his fifth foul. "Give him one more game, Cats!" yells a fan behind me. What a career and what a game with an injured thumb. Gutsiest performance I have ever seen.
And now the Carolina fans boo the Georgetown cheerleaders. I wouldn't go that far. But OK...I'll take it.
Hibbert at the line and he misses the front end. Davidson ball. Those 2 and a half minutes seem like an eternity.
Curry gets his shot blocked but Lovedale picks it up and puts it in.
Georgetown hits a huge three and Davidson needs to score again. And they do as Richards' layup is goal-tended. One more stop.....
Can't get it. Need another basket. One minute.
Max misses a three and Georgetown gets the dunk.
25 sec D 69 G 67
Georgetown has to foul and Curry is on the line. Have to hit your free throws bud. And have to get one defensive stop.
First one is up...and good. Second one is up...good. Sonya pumps her fists. Need a stop.
Curry gets the ball...gets fouled. And this place is electric.
First is good. Five point lead. Second one is good. 6 points.
But Georgetown hits a big three.
Curry back on the line and it is a little bit quieter. Three point lead with nine seconds.
"You can do it baby" yells the duo of grandmothers.
Oooohhhh...he misses the first. But he gets the second and Lovedale pulls down the rebound
Davidson is going to the SWEET SIXTEEN!!!!
How sweet it is.
Final D 74 G 70
Saturday, March 22, 2008
It was, up until now, a hopeful but hypothetical conversation. We’ve had it over beers in bars. We’ve had it on cell phones from Boston to San Francisco, from New York to Atlanta, from Charlotte to Tampa. We’ve had it in the fall and in the winter, and in the spring and summer, too. We’ve had it for years.
What if we won in the tournament?
It’s SUCH a good story, we said to each other –- little school, big dreams, cute town, smart kids. People, we kept saying, WANT to tell this story. They just needed a reason. They needed us to win.
This tournament is a series of finite 40-minute windows of opportunity. Seize one and you earn another. Win and you get another two days of news cycle. Win and you get to tell your story.
You have to understand something about us and our school. I don’t know if it’s Southern gentility or Presbyterian humility, but we’ve always been institutionally reluctant to say, Hey, look, look at us. It’s just not what we’ve done and so it’s not what we do.
But we want so badly for people to know.
So we’ve looked to Bob McKillop and his basketball team.
He went 4-24 in his first season at Davidson. That was 19 years ago. He has taken us from the Southern Conference tournament to the NIT to the NCAAs and now to a win in the NCAAs. He built this. He didn’t leave us when he could have. He has raised his family in a house across the street from campus. His oldest son played for him. His youngest son plays for him now. His daughter went to Davidson and is engaged to a Davidson man. He tears up when he talks about this.
His team went to the NIT in ’94.
His team lost in the conference finals in ’96 after going undefeated in league play.
In ’98, a conference tournament title, a trip to the NCAAs. It seems so, so long ago, but not really, and we were giddy. That felt like this feels. Really it did.
There were trips back, in ’02, in ’06, in ’07. Close, close, close. But never that win.
Make no mistake: We beat a good team today. This was not about the bounces or the breaks. No. We beat a really good team that played really well because WE played really well.
Because we got a ballsy gutsy late three from Max.
Because we got 13 rebounds from Andrew.
Because we got two huge buckets late from Rossiter.
Because we got nine assists and 15 points from Jason.
And also, of course, because we got 40 from Steph. Not just any 40. An 8-for-10-from-three 40. A 14-for-22 40. A five-steals 40. A first-round-record-setting-40. A forever 40. But this whole thing is less about how it happened and more about what it means.
After the game, Joey Beeler, the men’s basketball media relations guy, was looking frazzled. His life just got crazy. He said his phone started going off right as the buzzer sounded.
The story. Let it be told.
We are one of the smallest schools in Division I.
We are 1,700 students in Davidson, N.C., just north of Charlotte, that’s it, all undergrad.
We are NOT Davidson University.
We are ranked ninth in the U.S. News and World Report and 23rd in the AP poll.
We keep in touch with our professors after we graduate.
We watch basketball games on grainy Web video from wherever we live.
A couple weeks ago, at the Southern Conference tournament championship game, there was a man with a sign, and the sign said:
And they do, and in a way that’s much, much more intimate than most other Division I programs, and certainly most other programs that are playing this weekend for a spot in the Sweet 16.
This program, our program, is now big enough to matter but still small enough to touch.
After the game on Friday, in the locker room, there were the lights, the mics, the pens and the pads, the bigness, and there was Steph, surrounded by a scrum three- and four-deep, saying what he said, tired, happy, as always the faintest of facial hair on his chin and his upper lip.
We see in the peach-fuzzed face of this pretty kid from Charlotte the potential of what happened today. The hypothetical is no longer hypothetical. He helped make our conversation real.
Davidson College Class of 2000
Friday, March 21, 2008
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."
Sitting here at Press Row with a media guy from the Arkansas Traveler and hearing stories about the tornadoes and the SEC Tournament. We have both agreed that when you cover a tournament like the SEC or NCAA, you miss out on the whole perspective of the tournament. I didn't fill out a bracket this year and also did not watch too many of yesterday's games.
The crowd is still pretty sparse here and there are only 15 minutes until tipoff. After all of the clammering for tickets, it makes me feel really sad to see all of these empty seats in the lower deck. Probably Carolina fans who didn't resell and aren't planning on showing up until the Georgetown game.
I am stuck down in the corner with all of the student newspapers and the view of the court is not ideal. Oh well. The Daily Tar Heel is at the very end and that gives me some solace.
The Zags reiterate that this is their time of year as they follow Davidson's fight song with a pep band rendition of the CBS March Madness theme. Jim Nantz and Billy Packer are in place at midcourt for the call.
Just a reminder, I can only post five times during each half and once during halftime. So look for longer posts at the media timeouts.
Let the epic battle begin.
Wildcat nerves showing early as Sander throws the ball away after the Zags hit a nice drive. Pargo for three and the pressure is already on here in the early going. Curry with a response.
Robert Sacre is a beast unlike anything Davidson has run into this year. Sander is pushing and pushing and pushing. Gonzaga's defense hasn't been that impressive so far as Richards has driven for a layup and Lovedale got a slip-the-screen. They don't apply the type of pressure that UCLA or even Winthrop did. But the size is always there even when the speed is not.
Maybe it's just because I am sitting in the Davidson corner but there definitely sounds like a Davidson advantage in decibel level.
Andrew Lovedale picks up his first foul battling for position as we head into the first media timeout.
I will be putting the score and time at the bottom of these posts to change it up a bit.
15:54 D 8 G 10
Gonzaga is shooting very well from the floor, especially from three. Davidson isn't often the fast team when they are playing on a stage like this, but they are today. Gonzaga is just using the space and knocking down jump shots from the outside. Davidson's double team worked well on a possession as Lovedale was able to wait for the shot and he blocked it out of the paint.
Let's see if Davidson's three-point shooting can start heating up. Yep. Curry with a big three and his seventh point of the game to tie at 15 and Gonzaga walks. Momentum: Davidson.
Wildcat fans upset after a really close goal tending call on a Richards drive. The ball seemed to be right at the top of the arc and about to hit the backboard. Could have gone either way.
Stephen Curry on the bench and Davidson's offense slows down again. For just a brief moment it felt like all of those other big games (Maryland, Duke, UCLA) where Curry leaves and other teams just start rolling. Pargo is really on today. I read that he can be hot and cold but he seems pretty hot right now. Davidson has to have some production from Archambault and Barr if they are to keep up with this scoring fest. I don't think Davidson has yet scored from a forward getting the ball with his back to the basket. That's not an option today.
11:21 D 15 G 20
The Wildcats get an easy bucket off an inbounds, but then Gonzaga makes a crucial run. An uncontested Zag tip-in is followed by a Barr air ball and then Steven Gray nails a three-pointer to put the Zags up by eight. McKillop with a timeout and this place is a little quieter.
Gonzaga in a zone that I am just now seeing by looking at the big board. I have no depth perception looking at our side of the court. The Wildcat shooting is just off. The nerves mess with that more than anything else. And Davidson has to be able to hit jump shots to stay in this.
Gonzaga with another three and this one is unraveling. Loose balls around midcourt and Gonzaga's long arms continue to deny Davidson offensively. The Wildcats have to get their nerves and their shooting under control.
7:43 D 17 G 28
Internet conked out and I just lost most of my post since the 7:43 mark. But coming out of that timeout, McKillop made some adjustments and the Wildcats ran to points on three straight possessions. Crowd is still here and still very partisan. But Davidson's perimeter defense is so tentative because of the fear of Gonzaga's bigs. Gonzaga is winning this game on the perimeter.
3:42 D 27 G 33
Sorry about the internet issues. We are at halftime here and Davidson folks are less than thrilled. Gonzaga has outrebounded Davidson 19-11, including eight offensive boards. Add Steven Gray's 5-7 3PT shooting to that equation and the Zags look like a better team on the court. Davidson came out strong in second halves against UNC and Duke and made ballgames of those when things were slipping away going into the break. But Davidson didn't win those games. The memory that I hope these guys conjure is that Greensboro game. The offense was sluggish in that game as well and the Wildcats were getting beat by three-point shooters and a dominant post player then. And the Wildcats were without Thomas Sander then...he missed the end of the first half in this one with a hand injury. He's got it wrapped in the shootaround right now but we'll see how effective he is. Curry might need to score 35-40 for Davidson to win. He did say that he worked all year to have the stamina for these twenty minutes. We will find out if it paid off.
Halftime D 36 G 41
Curry opens the second half with a three. He wants it.
But Steven Gray is so hot. 6 threes now for 18 points. And he's still finding open looks.
Curry wants to play that game. This could be a second half for the ages. Curry with four threes now and 16 points on the game.
Curry is cooling off a little and Meno can't catch the ball. Lovedale and Rossiter in to relieve him and Sander. Gonzaga just keeps coming as Daye and Heytfelt have both the length and touch to control the ball 9 feet off the ground.
The Wildcat energy has turned to pleas as Richards is called for touch fouls on two straight possessions. A no call as Curry is hacked at the rim and now it is anger. Gonzaga back up to an 11-point lead.
Curry hits a tough shot as he is fouled but the Wildcats definitely lost round 1 of the second half. When Davidson trailed Greensboro by so much two months ago, McKillop told his players not to get it all back in one spurt. But Davidson also cannot surrender when a Gonzaga run lengthens a lead. They haven't yet, but then again Gonzaga isn't UNC-Greensboro.
15:23 D 54 G 45
Gonzaga keeps landing punches. Curry won’t take them as he continues to battle to get to the rim. But they are falling hard everywhere else. The Wildcats are getting called for questionable calls and rebounds are bouncing out of their hands. Frustration is very evident on the court and in the stands. Even the Carolina fans behind the basket are upset for Davidson.
Curry won’t let it go. But the refs aren’t helping Davidson’s cause with ticky-tack fouls away from the basket. They need to start calling it both ways.
The internet is screwing with me so I’m pretty frustrated too. I’m going to keep writing on this word document regardless.
Curry won’t let it go. A big three in front of the Wildcat bench and contact on the other end. Refs like to perpetuate momentum and make up for things. They call it in Davidson’s favor. Lovedale with a free throw and it’s a one-possession game.
Gonzaga responds well to hit some shots on their end. I wish both of these teams could get to the second round.
10:53 D 57 G 62
Rebounds, rebounds, rebounds. Gonzaga has controlled and dominated them today. But Davidson has more heart everywhere else and the calls are beginning to even up.
Curry ties it with a big three from the top of the key and that one is making a highlight video no matter what happens at the end of this one. The entire arena is on its feet because they are seeing one of the best players in college basketball put on a show for them right now.
As far as I'm concerned, the score is back to 0-0. Who can score the most in nine minutes...forget everything else.
Meno is back in the game after a Lovedale foul and he will need to play with everything he's got. No more turnovers. No more nerves.
Back and forth. Back and forth. And there's another collision at the basket as a Wildcat goes down and no foul is called. Davidson seems to be in control right now. As a timeout is called.
Stephen Curry has 34 points and everyone is tuning into this one around the country.
7:01 D 68 G 67
The Wildcat offense is clicking as all of the attention is paid to Curry. Rossiter finishing big at the basket.
But Gray says I can shoot too, remember? He hits a big three to tie the game for the Zags.
Sweet Caroline blares the arena and the Carolina fans look around and wonder why they don't sing it like we do. The student papers from Arkansas and Georgetown are also impressed.
Cats in foul trouble but Gonzaga can't hit every free throw. This marathon is getting down to its final mile and it is just nerve-wracking as it looks.
MPG stepping up big with a huge three-pointer. Lovedale fouled as he tries to get a rebound and we are in the final round.
This would make a great movie.
3:03 D 73 G 72
Mad Max with his spider defense forces a Gonzaga timeout. His national exposure has been incredible today. He has played with so much fire and the whole country is getting to see it.
Stephen Curry with a three of his lifetime as the clock goes under a minute and he points right at his father 20 feet away. All of press row looks around to see who it was ... and the arena is on its feet.
Daye misses a three and Lovedale comes down with the rebound that Davidson needed four months ago. 37 seconds and it's all about free throws. Hit the first. Hit the second. Five point lead for Davidson with 37 tics to play. Wildcat fans are beside themselves. The Wildcat just came over and messed up my hair. For the record, I straightened it back too...wait til the final whistle.
Gonzaga misses its first free throw and is called for lane violation on the next one. Curry fouled and is on the line.
"Oh...my....God!!!" yells a Davidson cheerleader.
Curry hits both and this one is over. It's been 39 years since the Wildcats have been in position. And it feels good. I will be coming back on Sunday.
Curry back on the line and he's going to get to that magic number: 40. A long time ago in snowy Greensboro...we witnessed something incredible. Today the Wildcats showed the country their heart. And Stephen Curry just put on the shoes as the best Davidson player of all time.
Final Davidson 82 Gonzaga 76