No matter how one is covering March Madness, it’s impossible not to miss a lot.
From 2001-08, I spent the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in the studios of Sporting News Radio – first in Northbrook, Ill., and then in Santa Monica. We were in the California studios when Steph Curry began turning the 2008 tournament into his own personal showcase.
And, because of the way he did it, I didn’t get to see a ton, especially his 25-point second-half explosion as Davidson mounted an enormous comeback against the Georgetown Hoyas.
MISSING MARCH MADNESS:
How No. 1 Georgetown escaped being ‘UMBC’d’ by 16-seed Princeton
No. 10 Davidson vs. No. 2 Georgetown, Midwest Region, 2008
Why I missed it: Because Georgetown built such a big lead while I was on-air at Sporting News Radio, I focused more on concurrent games, such as Texas’ narrow escape of Miami. Until the end.
What I missed: One of the great second-half performances in tournament history from Davidson guard Steph Curry.
Date: March 23, 2008
Site: RBC Center, Raleigh, NC
Rules at the time: 35-second clock, 3-point line set at 19 feet, 9 inches, there wasn’t a no-charge zone.
Coaches: John Thompson III (Georgetown); Bob McKillop (Davidson)
Announcers: Jim Nantz, voice of the tournament since 1991, and Billy Packer, a Final Four broadcaster for more than three decades.
Steph Curry’s arrival on the college basketball scene in the fall of 2006 took me by surprise, as it did pretty much everyone who covered the sport at the time. I remember interviewing my friend Dave Telep, then a recruiting analyst for what is now 247 Sports, to discuss how a player who could score 32 points – against Big Ten challenger Michigan — in his second college game would go unranked as a high school prospect.
Curry was literally the last player Telep eliminated from his top 100 prospects that year.
By the time Davidson reached the 2007 NCAA Tournament as champion of the Southern Conference, he had averaged 21.5 points and we were eager to see what he might do against Maryland and elite defender D.J. Strawberry. He scored 30 in an 82-70 defeat.
In 2008, with the Wildcats earning a No. 10 seed by racing through the SoCon at 20-0, Curry was ready to dominate. He scored 40 in Davidson’s first-round upset of No. 7 seed Gonzaga, and Georgetown took note.
Coach John Thompson III instructed the primary defender assigned to Curry to face guard him and offer no help on penetration. That occasionally opened driving lanes for Curry’s backcourt partner, Jason Richards, who scored 20, but that wasn’t enough to keep the Wildcats in the game.
Led by senior guard Jonathan Wallace, the Hoyas went through a period of nearly 13 minutes without missing a shot – they hit everything in the final 7:30 of the first half and the first 5:20 of the second — and built a lead that grew as large as 46-29 in the second half. Their too-frequent turnovers were all that kept Davidson alive in the game.
At the 10-minute mark of the second half, Curry was 3-of-16 from the field. He’d been hounded by Wallace and Jeremiah Rivers in particular, but all the Hoyas had a part.
Curry’s brilliance as a player still shone through all of this. Richards found him trailing the attack for an open 3-pointer in transition, and Rivers fouled him to make it a 4-point play and cut the Georgetown advantage to 48-37. Curry was so quick to make the proper pass even though the attack was built around his ability to score; his assist to center Andrew Lovedale on the break cut it to 50-43.
After he picked up a steal, he got the ball to Richards then entered traffic in the lane, dove behind a screen and hit a wide-open three to make it 50-46. All that work Georgetown had done to hold down Curry and build a big lead now meant little. And the extra effort to guard him was starting to wear down the Hoyas guards.
At 8:47, he cut up from the baseline to draw defensive attention, got the ball and then immediately threw a perfect pass to a cutting Lovedale to make it a 2-point game. After forward Thomas Sander tied the game on two free throws with 5:07 left, Curry executed a backdoor cut, took a pass from Richards and drew a foul from Rivers for a 3-point play that put Davidson in front.
Curry picked up his fourth foul on a reach-in with 4:15 left, which made the stretch run treacherous. (Packer even pointed out a subsequent missed Georgetown jumper might have been precipitated by Curry hitting the shooter’s arm). But with 3:50 left, Curry got a screen at the foul line, split two defenders and flipped a ridiculous layup off the glass for a 62-60 lead.
After another defensive stop, Curry came to get the ball from Richards at midcourt, stepped into a 3-pointer at the top of the key and made it a 5-point lead. Georgetown got it back to a 2-point game, but Curry closed it with 5-of-6 foul shooting. He finished with 30 points, 25 in the second half. It was his third career NCAA Tournament game, and he reached the 30-point mark each time.
“I’m numb right now,” McKillop told reporters afterward. “I’m a dreamer and I’ve been a dreamer my whole life. And for me not to think that we could get to this moment would be selling myself and the people who are behind me short.”
There would be more moments to come.
Final score: Davidson 74, Georgetown 70.
Source: Read Full Article