Sunday, March 04, 2007

From The State paper (Columbia, SC)

Davidson rides Curry to SoCon championship
College of Charleston’s great play not enough to derail league’s preeminent power
Davidson 72, College of Charleston 65

NORTH CHARLESTON — Davidson’s journey to this moment began last April at the team’s awards banquet when coach Bob McKillop bade farewell to seven seniors and made a bold statement.

“I think you’re going to be surprised next year,” he told the gathering.

At a Charlotte alumni event in October, McKillop fired another shot across the Southern Conference’s bow: “Stephen Curry is going to be one special player,” he said.

“I got up on a pedestal and said that,” McKillop recalled Saturday. “I said that because I thought he could handle that.”

Saturday night during the SoCon championship at the North Charleston Coliseum, a national television audience caught a glimpse of Curry’s rising star as Davidson snatched the College of Charleston’s glass slipper and smashed it to the floor in a 72-65 victory.

Curry, a freshman, scored a game-high 29 points — on the heels of Friday’s 30-point performance against Furman — to earn tourney MVP honors.

The son of Virginia Tech standout and long-time NBA player Del Curry had wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps but was not recruited by Hokies coach Seth Greenberg.

“When I see Seth Greenberg, I’m going to give him a piece of my mind,” College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins said with a smile.

The Cougars’ unlikely bid for a NCAA Tournament berth failed in spite of the team’s play, rather than because of anything it did wrong. Charleston (22-11) hit 51 percent of its shots and held its own on the boards, only to see a tight game go awry on a perfectly executed backdoor cut by Davidson (29-4) out of a timeout.

Jason Richards broke free, took a slick pass from Boris Meno and raced uncontested to a layup for a 66-62 lead with 1:19 to play. That would have been enough time for any team to rally from a four-point deficit, but the Cougars had played so flawlessly, they had to burn valuable seconds committing fouls to get Davidson into the bonus.

That was when Charleston’s legs came out from under it. Playing late into Friday night to outlast Appalachian State 89-87 in overtime had taken its toll on the team and its leader, Dontaye Draper.

The Cougars senior turned in the performance of the tournament in that game, scoring 38 points. Saturday, his legs were tight and no amount of will power allowed him to overcome that.

“I kept thinking here we go, here we go; I thought he’d come back,” Cremins said. “I kept telling him you’ve got something left, you’ve got something left.”

Alas, Charleston’s first appearance in the Southern Conference title game since its first year in the league (1999) was overshadowed by the team that has dominated the league ever since.

Next month’s awards banquet speech will be a brief affair. There are no seniors for Davidson to fete.

“Everyone who played out there today will be back next year,” McKillop said.

Especially Stephen Curry.

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