Saturday, December 23, 2006

Charlotte Observer article

Wildcats won't buckle
Richards, Davidson hand Sun Devils rare defeat in tournament

Special Correspondent

TEMPE, Ariz. - After Davidson captured the Sleep America Classic with a 75-70 win Friday afternoon against host Arizona State, important elements of a developing team were evident.

Davidson was sailing along with a 65-45 lead with just over eight minutes left. That's when the Sun Devils began a 10-0 run, and eventually had the margin to 72-68. Despite hitting only three free throws during the final 3 minutes, 46 seconds, the Wildcats hung on to stretch their winning streak to seven games.

"Here, you have to credit to Arizona State and the program Herb Sendek is building," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "They certainly did not quit, but give us some credit, too. We didn't cave in."

The Wildcats did dodge a bullet in the final 12 seconds when Christian Polk, Arizona State's leading scorer, missed a 3 with Davidson ahead 74-70. Jason Richards followed with one of two free throws to create the final margin.

It was the Sun Devils' second loss in the tournament title game in nine years. They lost in the first round in 2000.

In defeating Ohio University 83-74 in the opening round Thursday, the Wildcats (11-3) launched 35 3-pointers, made 14 for nearly a 37 percent shooting percentage. Friday against Arizona State (6-5), the Wildcats fired only 17, and made nine.

McKillop decided to press the Arizona State perimeter, and capitalize on points in transition.
"We realize we have offensive weapons, but we wanted to emphasize defense," said Richards, who led Davidson with 25 points.

"Against Arizona State, we didn't want the ball inside to their big guys. So we pressed, and things worked out."

McKillop said the Arizona State game was Richards' best effort of the season. In addition to knocking down four 3s, the junior handed out three assists.

Richards hit three 3-pointers after intermission, and he had one with 4:47 remaining that created a 70-62 Davidson advantage.

"Davidson is an outstanding shooting team, and they make you pay," said Sendek, who left N.C. State after last season. "I thought we showed a good competitive spirit against a very good basketball team."

• Against Ohio University on Thursday, Davidson had four players score in double figures, led by : freshman Stephen Curry's 19 points. Richards added 18 and center Boris Meno chipped in with 17 points and 16 rebounds.

• Davidson is off until playing at home Dec. 30 against Western Michigan.

• Richards was named the tournament's most valuable player.

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