Monday, March 05, 2007


Curry's 29 points earn Davidson NCAA Tournament ticket
Associated Press

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Stephen Curry's not always perfect. He was pretty close in this year's Southern Conference tournament.

Curry, the son of former NBA standout Dell Curry, scored 29 points Saturday night and Davidson returned to the NCAA Tournament with a 72-65 win over College of Charleston in the conference championship.

The Southern Conference freshman of the year totaled 79 points in three games in the tourney and won the MVP award as the Wildcats (29-4) secured their second straight title and trip to the NCAAs.

But when Curry was out alone in the title game and prepped for a highlight-style jam, he muffed it, the ball bounding off the rim and out.

"Big stage and [I] kind of choked on it,'' Curry said smiling.

That was about the only thing that went wrong for the Wildcats' smooth guard this week.

Curry had 20 points in Davidson's tournament-opening win over Chattanooga, then 30 in the semifinals against Furman.

Against College of Charleston, Curry scored 15 first-half points with Davidson point guard Jason Richards on the bench with two fouls, then nailed two critical 3-pointers to help wipe out the Cougars' 56-51 lead.

"Steph can miss a dunk. Steph can turn it over," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "But he makes a steal, he makes a rebound, he makes that 3 off the double screen. He makes big plays at big times. That's what sets him apart, not just in our program but in the conference and across the country."

Curry grew up in Charlotte while his father was with the Hornets and got to know McKillop when he played youth baseball with the coach's son.

Curry didn't have much attention coming out of high school. Even if he did, McKillop says Curry felt most comfortable around Davidson's program.

Curry's not bitter about bigger schools in more prominent leagues that missed out.

"I don't know what they're thinking, but it wasn't my main mission to try and work on this year," he said. "I'm in a great situation right now with a great coach where we can play together and win a championship."

Curry and the Wildcats also spoiled the fairy tale run of College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins, who had hoped to lead a third school to the NCAAs in his first season back in the college game.

"Obviously, it could've been an incredible fantasy story," said Cremins, who hadn't coached since leaving Georgia Tech in 2000. "But it didn't happen. I'm glad we made a run at it."

Curry was perhaps the biggest reason.

Curry hit two straight 3-pointers in the second half to tie it at 59. Boris Meno followed with a three-point play to give Davidson a lead it would never give up.

When it was over, Curry leaped high, arm extended to signal Davidson was again No. 1 in the Southern Conference.

It was the Wildcats' third title since 2002 and fourth under McKillop -- another New Yorker who made good coaching down South.

Davidson already surpassed the school record for victories set by Lefty Driesell's 1968-69 team that finished 27-3. Now McKillop moved past Driesell in NCAA trips by a Davidson coach.

Now, McKillop will see if he can match the NCAA success Driesell brought the Wildcats -- Lefty's teams were 5-4 in the tournament.

After last year's NCAA experience, "I think we'll have a different mind-set," McKillop said.

Davidson has lost its opening game in its three previous NCAA appearances, including a 70-62 defeat by second-seeded Ohio State last year.

Meno added 14 points for Davidson.

Dontaye Draper, College of Charleston's top scorer, was held to eight points on 2-of-11 shooting. David Lawrence and Jermaine Johnson led the Cougars with 13 points apiece.

The biggest question coming into this one was how much stamina Draper and the Cougars had left after their thrilling 89-87 overtime victory over Appalachian State in Friday night's semifinal.

Draper had a career-high 38 points against the Mountaineers and looked just as crisp at the start against Davidson, scoring the Cougars' first five points.

But Draper didn't hit another shot the rest of the game.

"I wouldn't say I was tired. My body just kept feeling tight," Draper said. "I tried to forget it."

With Draper off target -- he had eight 3s in the semifinal victory -- Charleston struggled to find some offense. The Cougars were just 3-of-14 behind the arc in the second half.

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