Monday, February 18, 2008

Thoughts from PMM after the Furman game

Cookin' With the 'Cats: Just Nuke It
by PMM

Last week, the Davidson Wildcats served up performances which were a disappointing statement for Southern Conference teams who anxiously anticipate a chance to derail Davidson Dance destiny. The first was Rasputin-like, as Davidson survived UNC-Greensboro's laudable attack which would certainly have destroyed a more mortal squad. The game featured a tête-à-tête between what will likely be considered the best SoCon players of the decade in Kyle Hines and Stephen Curry. It was a treat to see both perform beyond anticipated ability. Hines' 27 points on 9-13 shooting set an example for his teammates to hit 70% of their field goals. Along with 12 rebounds, the 2006-07 SoCon Player Of the Year created a 39 minute microcosm of an elite career that, in the Annals of the Greats, will sit alongside the likes of 'Zo Mourning, Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

Nevertheless, good things would not come for those waiting on Hines. Lucretius wrote that which is food for one man is bitter poison for others. Last Wednesday, the Wildcats feasted on 41 Curry points, and with 17 of those coming in the last 6 minutes of play, the Spartans choked.

As for Curry's career statistics, following the UNC-G game, the only record Davidson fans should fear is his becoming the first mid-major player to depart college early for the NBA. But while the 'Cats are spicy, its not just Curry creating Conference heartburn. The team's resurgence from a 20 point deficit in Greensboro evidenced what to date had been a missing ingredient: the collective ability to grind to the buzzer. That was the team's failure against the "Big Four" earlier this season, and a similar recipe had not yet been called-for in Conference play. The game at Elon, of course, required heroic shooting from Curry after a tepid 38 minute team-effort, but nothing like the triage needed at Fleming Gym. Jason Richards had a vintage performance, carving up Spartan passing lanes with a technique that has him atop of the nation in the assist category. But his greatest role in the game was to play as a senior player must. Richards patiently shaped the Wildcats' attack from the point for 34 minutes before driving in the go-ahead bucket. Had he not been relegated to the sidelines so trainers could stitch up a gushing grill-gash, Richards would have certainly been in for more to see the job was done. If the 'Cats are to fulfill their prophecy and Dance into the wee hours of March, each player will adopt Jason's lion-hearted intensity.

Wednesday's game reminded the 'Cats there is certainly some tough chewing left on the schedule, but hosting Furman on Saturday was the opportunity to show how hungry they still are. Curry and Andrew Lovedale opened the can of Paladin beat-down with a quick 7-0 run. Just two and a half minutes after tip-off, Matt Hogue, calling the action for Sports South, excitably described the smell of home-cooking emanating from Belk Arena: "And that's a recipe for disaster for Furman!" he shouted, following an unchallenged Lovedale jumper from the baseline.

Will Archambault was the machine heating it all up. "I call him The Microwave," Coach McKillop told the Charlotte Observer after the game. Starting with a rebound and a long three-pointer during his first 57 seconds off the bench, The Microwave finished the first half with 16 points in 14 minutes of play. Conjuring the deadliest Canadian accuracy since Henry Louis Norwest, he went 11-14 shooting from the floor. The Microwave lead all scorers and shattered a personal record with 28 points, all coming in a mere 20 minutes of total playing time.

Ultimately, Archambault, Lovedale (14), and Curry (26) alone outscored Furman by nearly twenty points. And while some may scoff at the Furman game as routine against a team that has not won at Belk Arena since the year it opened in 1989, Saturday was a display of nearly flawless transitions and dominant defense in the paint. Regardless of the opponent, to see the 'Cats focusing on and executing fundamentals for forty minutes is as sweet as Turkish delight Can Civi driving hard to the basket as time expired.

The time is right for the 'Cats to begin this peak. This week, they appear twice on ESPN2 in just four days. To date, Stephen Curry has thrived when playing under the bright lights. But with Thomas Sander seemingly back to good health, and with so many others reminding us we still do not really know how good they can be, the country likely will not recognize this Davidson team from the last nationally televised games in December. That should be very scary for the competition.


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