Sunday, March 04, 2007

From Charlotte Observer

'Special year' continues for Davidson
Wildcats make key plays, win 2nd straight Southern championship

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - southern conference final: davidson 72, college of charleston 65 Less than 20 minutes after Davidson's 72-65 win against College of Charleston on Saturday night in the Southern Conference tournament final, Davidson coach Bob McKillop sat alone deep within the North Charleston Coliseum.

"I was overwhelmed," he said. "This team has done everything I've asked of it all season. This has been such a special year."

McKillop, 56, has played a big role in that. Freshman Stephen Curry scored 29 points and was named the tournament's most valuable player, but McKillop helped the Wildcats win their second straight Southern Conference championship.

He set up the biggest plays of the game, and his team ran them flawlessly when it had to.

The biggest shot came from point guard Jason Richards, who cut to the basket for a backdoor lay-up that gave the Wildcats a 66-62 lead with 1 minute, 20 seconds left. The play was supposed to go to Curry, but once Richards' defender, Dontaye Draper, overplayed the handoff, Richards broke to the basket and took a bounce pass from Boris Meno for an uncontested shot.

"I think that gave our guys a sense of, `Wow, our system really works,' " McKillop said.

That was the only self-compliment McKillop could muster. He deferred to his players, especially Curry. Curry kept Davidson (29-4) in the game in the first half and held Draper, who had 38 points Friday, without a field goal in the second half.

Curry had been fearless under pressure. McKillop recognized that, and with five minutes left, set up a play for him.

The Wildcats trailed Charleston (22-11) 59-56, but Curry came off two screens to get an open 3-point shot off the left wing. He made it to tie the score, and the Wildcats fed off the play.

Davidson scored the next five points to take a 64-59 lead, and then held on after McKillop settled his team down to run the final critical play with 90 seconds left.

McKillop reminded his team that games are like boxing matches with 10 four-minute rounds. He then called the play that delivered the knockout.

"We hadn't run it all game," forward Thomas Sander said. "But coach McKillop knew we could do it. We have so many guys from the Midwest, Europe and other places, so he's become like a second father to us. He knows how to get us ready."

McKillop wasn't ready for all the emotions he felt afterward. Tears welled up in his eyes as he hugged Curry at midcourt.

"He motivates us and keeps our head in the game," Curry said. "He's everything for us."

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