April 5, 2008
As time crept closer and closer to 5:05 P.M. on Sunday, many thought it was much closer to midnight. As the pre-game intro showed, the glass slipper would be shattered, and the much used cliché of David and Goliath reference was employed once more. A majority of people, myself included, believed Kansas would coast to Bill Self’s first Final Four appearance. Right? Wrong. A majority of people believed Kansas’ suffocating defense would shut down the most explosive player the NCAA tournament has seen in Stephen Curry, Davidson’s stud shooting guard. Right? Wrong. The first tip came with Kansas easily gaining possession of the ball. Both teams looked to set the tempo early, but that would be hard to do when you start the game off shooting 29%. Nearing the midway point of the first half, the offenses started clicking and dragged both teams out of their droughts which had only seen a combined 18 points in nearly 10 minutes. Curry was not on point early in the contest, missing his first five shots, but came back with a couple of impressive drives to the basket. The drives displayed Curry’s patience, vision, and ball-handling skills; all of which are superb. On the first he proceeded to begin outside the three-point line, dribble behind his back, and cut to the hoop, where he was met by two Kansas defenders, Curry then switched to his left hand for an easy two. I feel like I’m cheating him by saying an easy two though. Nothing came easy in this match-up. Kansas’ highly touted Brandon Rush shot very poorly, and he went 19 minutes without scoring at one point. But it was another guard for the Jayhawks that stepped up in his place. Mario Chalmers and Curry seemingly went shot for shot in the first half, when the other eight players on the court were having trouble with their respective scoring touches. The first half saw Kansas out-rebound Davidson, but the Jayhawks only led by 2. This was mainly caused by Kansas’ inability to protect themselves from turning the ball over. The first half saw the slowing of Kansas’ deep offense, and the first time that Stephen Curry scored more points in the first half than the second. Kansas also caught snags at the free throw line, where they could not convert several three-point plays. Although those missed free throws didn’t seem like much then, when Stephen Curry brought the game back to within two with under a minute to go, you go back and think what if? But I’m getting ahead of myself…This was the first time Stephen Curry did the aforementioned and scored more points in the first 20 minutes than the latter. Curry had difficult looks all game long, but was successful in his ability to drive the lane and create points for himself. His ability to create a shot when he is seemingly all tied up is phenomenal. If you blink, you will miss his release. Curry has all the intangibles to be a star for years to come. The game was interesting all throughout the second half. The Wildcats and Jayhawks saw the lead change 7 times. Neither team saw a lead bigger than 6 points. Davidson and Kansas took a combined 41 three-point attempts, with Kansas shooting 36% on 5 of 14 attempts, and Davidson shooting 30% on 8 of 27 attempts. The game’s waning moments saw Curry drain an NBA range three-pointer. At this point, Kansas needed a basket to get the game back to two possessions. When they failed to do so, everybody and their mother knew what this was coming down to. Was this the year the glass slipper got Davidson one more game? With 16.8 seconds left, the ball was inbounded to Curry who slowly and methodically dribbled up-court, looking for holes in the defense. As he crossed half court, he was met by Brandon Rush. Curry then moved to his left, where Mario Chalmers switched onto him, Curry then rushed back to the right, where he was double-teamed. Rush slipped for a second, but he regained his composure and gave Curry no change to win the game. Curry saw teammate Jason Richards, the NCAA leader in assists per game, open, and he passed off to Richards and he threw up a prayer…only to see his shot miss wide left. And just like that, it all ended. With all the unbelievable shots Davidson had made up to this point, the one they needed most bounced off the backboard and fell to the ground harmlessly. The Kansas players exploded and stormed the court. You could almost feel the relief exuding from their bodies. For the first time ever, all four #1 seeds are in the Final Four. Kansas faces North Carolina next Saturday, where Roy Williams will face his former team. This year, interesting storylines make the Final Four even more intriguing. For the first time since Juwan Howard did it more than 15 years ago, the Most Outstanding Player for any region went to a player on the losing team, in Davidson’s Stephen Curry. It says a lot about Curry to have the team first mentality, and confidence in his teammate to pass off the ball when the clock was winding down and the game and a Final Four berth were on the line. Curry, who was hot in every second half of the NCAA tournament games his team played in, could have forced a shot through a double-team. He could have ignored his point guard being open while he stood covered by two Jayhawks. But he didn’t, he gave his team the best chance to win by passing the ball to Richards. Not always can you take as much from a loss as Davidson can, but teams don’t always play like Davidson does. Teams normally don’t have a player scoring his regular season average in the second half of his NCAA tournament games. Most teams don’t have a Stephen Curry. Hell, only one does.
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