By: Dave Hackenberg
Saturday, March 29, 2008
Even LeBron James came to his feet and imitated the release.
With 13 minutes left in last night's NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal, Davidson guard Stephen Curry took a pass in transition in the far left corner. From his right flew Wisconsin's 6-7 Joe Krabbenhoft, timing his leap perfectly, ready to swat the shot through the end zone at Ford Field, maybe across the street into Comerica Park.
Curry could not have seen him coming, but he must have sensed it, felt it. He somehow kept his feet on the ground and reeled the ball in and, after Krabbenhoft achieved lift-off and flew harmlessly past, calmly lined up a 3-point shot and caught all net.
LeBron liked it.
But LeBron and some 57,000 others in the dome hadn't seen anything yet.
About four minutes later, that all changed. Point guard Jason Richards hit Curry on a baseline cut and he made a circus move under the basket and twisted and seemed to go horizontal for an instant and twirled in a reverse layup, and this time LeBron came to his feet along with everybody else and did a little dance.
Davidson is the darling of the Big Dance. But forget that Cinderella stuff. Enough of this underdog hooey and talk of tiny, little Davidson.
"We've got Steph Curry," said Wildcats coach Bob McKillop. "And that's pretty good stuff."
Yes it is.
Curry scored 33 points last night and Davidson mauled Wisconsin, the pride of the Big Ten, in the second half to take a 73-56 win. He scored 30 in a second round win over Georgetown, the pride of the Big East. He had 40 in the opening round against Gonzaga, the pride of the nation's mid-majors.
Next up? Kansas, the pride of the Big 12.
The Wildcats certainly have plenty to be proud of after running their winning streak to 25 games. They turned the tables on Wisconsin, the team known for defense, and held the Badgers to .238 shooting in the second half. Richards, the point guard, had 13 assists and zero turnovers, which McKillop called "unparalleled in a Sweet Sixteen game." It is pretty much unparalleled at any time and in any place.
But Davidson is one of eight teams still standing because of Curry, the sweetest shooter on the planet -- yes, LeBron's planet.
His release is supersonic, his shot silky and effortless. It is almost like watching a diver off the high board, tucking perfectly and disappearing beneath the surface of the water with hardly a ripple. When Curry shoots, you're surprised if the net even moves. It's that clean.
In the first half, which was a battle of 3-point shooting and physical, half-court offense, Curry would come off a screen against a good, quick defender in Wisconsin's Michael Flowers, have no more than a sliver of daylight, and still get off perfect-looking shots.
In the second half, with the tempo ratcheted up and
Davidson winning the transition battle, Curry was a baby-faced assassin. He hit step-back 3s, he fired off assists when triple-teamed, he banked a fall-away shot from the elbow off the glass, and he had four steals. He was a highlight reel.
"That's just how Steph Curry plays," Richards said. "It just shows what a great player he is. He's done it for us all year."
For most of that year he did it in the relative anonymity of the Southern Conference. Now, all of America's eyes are open to his talent.
For a half, the Wildcats were physical, banging on the boards, not backing down, "hitting flesh" as Curry put it. In the second half, they just ran away from the Badgers. Curry's hesitation trey made it 54-45, back-to-back 3s by Richards and Curry made it 60-45, and Curry's circus move for a layup made it 63-46.
There were still more than nine minutes to play, but the Badgers are not a team built to come from behind. That basket nailed it. Game. Even LeBron knew it.
"That's pretty cool," Curry said. "A guy like LeBron, who's in the spotlight, and he's coming to watch us play. It's pretty cool to give him something to be happy about and cheer about, to entertain him."
There aren't many players who can entertain King James.
It takes a fellow royal.
Call him Sir Steph.
Aw, heck, go ahead. Call him King Curry.