Sunday, December 02, 2007

Duke, Davidson put on good show

Late Saturday morning, Davidson fans tailgated football-style in the parking lots outside Bobcats Arena. They appreciate their basketball team, and the opportunity it had Saturday against Duke.

Duke is a great foil. The Blue Devils love their program and their tradition and their clever fans. Nobody else does.

So when the Blue Devils come to town, they attract supporters and detractors and folks that simply appreciate quality basketball

Everybody got at least some of what they came for.

The game was fast and entertaining and featured several plays that, even if you were unaligned, made you jump and shout. Duke won 79-73. And Davidson fans got to blame officials for the loss.

Four offensive fouls were called on Davidson star Stephen Curry. With how many of them did you agree?

"I can't tell," says Curry. "I just look at the rim."

I thought the first, second and fourth calls were legitimate.

Davidson also was hit by a terrible call with 3 minutes 56 seconds remaining. The ball went out of bounds off Duke guard Greg Paulus (who was excellent when he had to be late in the game). The Blue Devils inexplicably were awarded the ball.

It's almost as if some teams go into a game with an edge because they bring a reputation, developed over decades, for superior play. Davidson is not one of them.

But if a few shaky calls are all you took away from this one, you missed a good show.

It was up and down, back and forth, Davidson suddenly down by 10 with Curry on the bench, and then down by 16, and then within three.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop played seventh-ranked Duke the same way he played top-ranked North Carolina last month. (Davidson lost that one by four.) He didn't back down or draw in or hang on.

His Wildcats ran and shot with the Blue Devils. His team put up 24 3-pointers, Duke 25.

Duke freshman Kyle Singler took five of those. Singler scored 14 points and added 12 rebounds and demonstrated why Blue Devil fans will embrace him.

He leaped over the Duke bench to knock back in bounds a ball that had very, very, very clearly gone off a teammate. He landed in a heap. Duke fans were concerned. Singler's only concern was the ball.

Also entertaining was The Battle of the NBA Sophomore Sons. The father of Duke's Gerald Henderson (Gerald Henderson) played 13 seasons in the NBA and Curry's father Dell played 16.

Henderson had 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Curry had 20 points, two assists and two steals.

The crowd was great, 17,034. Although Davidson fans were louder, allegiance was split about 50-50.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski says he enjoys playing in Charlotte. Of course he does.

"We won," he says.

Kryzyzewski praised the crowd, as did McKillop.

"Outstanding," he says. "Just superb."

Here's the best thing about Davidson.

There was a time when almost beating the Blue Devils and Tar Heels would have excited the team and its fans. That time was long ago.

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