Sunday, January 06, 2008

From The Observer

Wildcats ready to hit the road
6 of next 7 games away from home for Southern Conference favorite


DAVIDSON --Davidson rolled to another home win Saturday night, and the Wildcats' 86-73 win against Western Carolina gave Davidson a chance to work on some fine-tuning.

The Wildcats used a 20-0 run in the first half to take command of the game and remain unbeaten in the Southern Conference.

That run gave Davidson a 15-point lead, 37-22, and the Catamounts were never closer than 13 points in the second half.

The big cushion gave Davidson (6-6, 4-0 Southern) chances to improve on things before a long stretch of road games. The Wildcats have six of their next games on the road, and haven't played as well away from Belk Arena.

Davidson has waltzed through its first four conference games -- the Wildcats haven't trailed in the second half in any game -- but hostile crowds and hungry opponents await.

The Wildcats weren't flawless Saturday, and a sloppy second-half stretch will give coach Bob McKillop motivation before Wednesday's game at Elon. Davidson had nine turnovers in the second half, and missed 13 of 15 3-pointers. Guard Stephen Curry had 19 points Saturday, but connected on only 1-of-11 3-pointers.

But those shortcomings were overshadowed by a suffocating defense that created eight charges and kept Western Carolina (4-10, 0-4) off its rhythm.

Davidson forced 23 turnovers, and had six players finish with at least nine points.

Sophomore Will Archambault stood out Saturday, scoring 11 points and giving Davidson a lift off the bench. That's the kind of production Davidson will need in its upcoming stretch, because Curry will be the focal point of defenses.

The Wildcats relied on his scoring too much early in the season, but now Davidson is more willing to turn to other weapons.

"We've learned a lot from the experiences we've had," Curry said.

"We know what our strengths and weaknesses are now. We just have to work on our weaknesses together."

It helps that the Wildcats are getting healthy.

Curry dunked left-handed, putting ease to questions about a sore left wrist that will require surgery after the season. Junior Max Paulhus Gosselin is also healed from a sore back, and Davidson appears ready for anything that's coming from Southern Conference opponents.

"The only question I have about us is our consistency," McKillop said.

"There were moments tonight when we were brilliant, but the key to greatness is consistency. We don't want to be a shooting star; we want to be a shining star."


Observations Western Carolina-Davidson

• Davidson fans held their breath with four minutes left in the first half, when star guard StephenCurry crumpled under the basket after deflecting a pass. The sophomore went to one knee on the court for a minute, and then sat out for a few possessions. But he returned later in the half, and hit a 23-foot shot at the buzzer to give Davidson a 50-38 lead.

• Western Carolina used an aggressive man-to-man defense to try to stop Davidson in the first half, and the Catamounts might have gotten away with it if not for those meddling referees. Western Carolina was called for 21 fouls in the first half, and eight players had at least two fouls.

• Davidson coach Bob McKillop has tried to build sophomore WillArchambault's confidence in recent games, and the forward is starting to make an impact after a slow start this season. He had six points in the first half Saturday, and hit a 3-pointer.

• Davidson's defense makes up for a lack of quickness with smart plays. The Wildcats drew six charges in the first half.

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