NEW YORK — I'm still a bit tired from my fun and exciting night at Madison Square Garden. I was there for the Jimmy V Basketball Classic and had a press pass courtesy of Bleacher Report. I did some in-game blogging from the press box, did a feature story on Davidson's Andrew Lovedale, and wrote an article about Villanova's backourt.
Now, I will add some more thoughts and notes from the games, including quotes from the postgame interviews.
Stephen Curry was 9/27 from the field, including 4/16 from deep. But the MSG crowd stayed behind him, "oohing and ahhing" every time Curry released a shot. The support he got was tremendous.
"It's amazing to see the support from my freshman year to now," Curry said after the game. "The army is growing." He also said he doesn't notice the crowd too much during games.
Curry had missed 12 of his first 13 three-point attempts, including his last 11, but with just under five minutes in the game he hit one from deep to tie the game at 56 and gave a frustrated fist-pump that said, "It's about time!"
Two minutes later, he hit another jumper to tie it, and then hit threes on consecutive possessions that sent the Garden crowd into a frenzy and gave Davidson the lead for good.
"Steph stepped up to the plate and tried to hit the home-run pass too early," coach Bob McKillop said after the win. "He tried a little too hard on the grand stage. But despite all the shortcomings tonight, he never quit on himself or the team and found a way to create that magic at the end."
McKillop compared Curry's play to his first game as a freshman against Eastern Michigan, when he had eight turnovers in the first game. The coach said he reminded Curry of that game at halftime last night.
"This was clearly a case of him...just trying too hard," McKillop said. "I'd also say it was a combination of being in the Garden for the first time, playing against a very good Big East team, and a good defensive scheme."
As for playing point guard, for 40 minute no less, Curry agreed with his coach's assessment that he was trying to make "the home-run pass."
"I'm coming along," Curry said about his development at the new position. I’m still making bad decisions and...that's where I get most of my turnovers. But I'm getting more comfortable, and getting my teammates involved, and every game I get a little bit better at it."
McKillop also referenced Jim Valvano. The statement was fitting considering the night, but it didn't seem the coach was aware he was quoting the late legend when he spoke about the game.
Jimmy V's Speech
Jim Valvano's famous speech from the 1993 ESPY Awards was shown on the big screen at MSG last night during halftime of Davidson's game. It's unknown whether or not McKillop heard it from the locker room, but Valvano's words crept into his postgame talk.
When speaking about his team's performance, McKillop has this to say: "It wasn’t a pretty basketball game or a very fluid basketball game but we did never, ever give up."
The Stars Came Out
Warren Sapp, Vince Carter, Devin Harris, Pat Riley, and several other sports celebrities were on hand last night, presumably to watch Curry in action. They were spotted cheering when the Davidson star hit the big threes late in the game, and many left after the Davidson game ended. It's unreal the crowds this kid is drawing to come watch a mid-major school. He is so great for college basketball.
No Argument Here
What does it say about his program that Curry can have an off-night against a Big East team, all while getting outrebounded 58-32, and still come out with a victory?
"We must be doing something right," McKillop said.
A.J. Abrams dazzled, scoring 26, and Damion James added 16 on 7/11 shooting. But it was Texas' defense that stood out, holding Villanova to 58 points on 38 percent shooting.
"We think this is the makings of the best defensive team we’ve had at Texas," coach Rick Barnes said in a post-game press conference.
Several Longhorn defenders frustrated the 'Nova guards, drawing offensive fouls, forcing turnovers, and not giving them many good looks at the basket.
In January 2007, Texas lost to 'Nova 76-69 in Philadelphia. Barnes is very impressed with how far his team has come defensively since then.
"We played Villanova two years ago and we couldn't guard anybody," he said. "We went back and used that tape as part of our game preparation for today because they really embarrassed us."
The Pittman Dilemma
Dexter Pittman, the 6'10", 300-pound junior who shed nearly 100 pounds this past offseason, is still trying to lose some weight. Barnes said last night was the first time he took Pittman out of the game—all previous benchings have come at Pittman's request.
"He still wants to lose weight," Barnes said about his big man. "He is up every morning doing more than anybody. We’re caught in the middle—how hard do we push him to continue to get him in shape without wearing him out for games?"
It's a tough spot for Barnes and the coaching staff, but they're all just happy with Pittman's improvements during his career.
"Tonight he got out there and really guarded ball screens," Barnes said. "When we recruited him out of high school he didn’t even know there was wood outside the lane. That’s all kind of uncharted territory for him."
Pittman played 15 minutes last night, scoring eight points.
One or Two?
Much like Curry's role with Davidson, Texas is experimenting with a new point guard. In earlier games this season, Abrams was that guy. Last night, Justin Mason played point for most of the game.
When I asked Coach Barnes and Abrams about which position they prefer him to play, both said basically the same thing: It doesn't matter, as long as Texas wins.
Barnes admitted he's not sure what this team's offensive identity is yet, saying they play a different style based on who is in the game at a given time. Sometimes, he'll improvise mid-game.
"The other night, playing against UCLA, I told the guys, 'Just go get A.J. open, all you guys start screening for him and he'll get the ball,'" Barnes said.
Abrams seems comfortable so far at either position, and Mason has proved to be a capable floor leader, so I only see the Texas offense improving as the season goes.
All in all, I had a great time at MSG. It was fun to represent Bleacher Report. Several of the other writers were familiar with the site, and I made others aware of our existence. Hopefully I represented BR well!