Curry, Richards pay dividends in Davidson's Sweet 16 run
RALEIGH, N.C. -- It started out as an empty gallon jar in Davidson's locker room. Penny by penny, and practice by practice, it began to fill up.
"I wish you could see the jar; the jar's about full right now," wingman Max Paulhus Gosselin beamed. "The mentality is to get better every practice, and I feel like by now all these little pennies have added up. We wanted to play our best basketball in March. Maybe by now it will be to play our best basketball in April."
On Sunday, the little things amounted to a huge win for the small college in North Carolina. Free throws. Screens. Defense. And a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard named Stephen Curry, who scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half.
After an amazing second-half resurgence led by yet another incredible Curry comeback (he scored 30 in the second half against Gonzaga on Friday), 10th-seeded Davidson beat No. 2 seed Georgetown 74-70.
This Davidson vs. Goliath story will continue, right into the Sweet 16.
No, the Wildcats are not "this year's George Mason." They're an improved version of last year's Davidson, which unveiled Curry to the basketball world but lost to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Wildcats tame Hoyas
Just how did Davidson dig itself into a 17-point second-half deficit against Georgetown? And just how did Davidson dig itself out of a 17-point second-half deficit? ESPN.com's Heather Dinich breaks it down. Instant Analysis
"I think we've been put on the national scene by our performance against Gonzaga, and this just further clarifies and amplifies and said it wasn't a fluke," McKillop said. "The 22-game winning streak we had coming into the tournament wasn't a fluke. The 20-0 in conference play wasn't a fluke. There is something really valid about this team, and I think we've demonstrated that validity by the way we've played."
There was no need for McKillop to use Jim Larranaga-like tricks to convince this Southern Conference team it could knock off Georgetown, a contender in last year's Final Four and one of the top defensive teams in the country and the best in the Big East. No need to coddle the Wildcats with encouragement about being able to handle 7-2 center Roy Hibbert.
They already knew. Even when they trailed by as many as 17 points with 9:27 remaining, there was never any doubt.
Steph is a torch on one end; Jason Richards is the torch on the other end. You light that torch and as the fire burns, it also keeps that torch burning. Your two catalysts, their torch is constantly being replenished by the fire they established.
--Davidson coach Bob McKillop
"Never," point guard Jason Richards said. "That thought never crossed our mind."
McKillop said it never does.
"This is a very, very, special group in that they're accustomed to winning, and when you're accustomed to winning, it's a fire that rages," McKillop said. "Steph is a torch on one end; Jason Richards is the torch on the other end. You light that torch and as the fire burns, it also keeps that torch burning. Your two catalysts, their torch is constantly being replenished by the fire they established."
There's no question Curry and Richards are the faces of the program -- Curry already has scored 70 points in the tournament, and Richards leads the nation in assists -- but their teammates work doggedly to put them in positions to succeed. In the first half, Curry was held to just five points -- in large part because of the job Jeremiah Rivers did on him defensively.
" I was just going to be patient and not force the issue," Curry said, "because I have total confidence in my teammates to make plays, and so that showed in the first half."
It's his teammates' willingness to set screens for Curry, and Richards' ability to find him when he's open, that made the difference in the second half.
"That's something that's so great about our guys -- they don't care who gets the pub," Richards said. "It's about winning games."
Which is why the Cats have won 24 straight, the longest streak in the nation.
They're not just winning for each other, though. Alumni, students, former players from the school with an enrollment of just 1,700 made their presence known Sunday in RBC Center.
"I'm playing basketball, I look in the stands, look at the reds, I don't see students, I see friends, people I actually know on campus," forward Andrew Lovedale said. "It's just great for our program, just to get us out there and say yes, we can compete with the big guys."
They most certainly did.
When the Wildcats got into the locker room, they just laughed. They did it. And they had tons of fun doing it.
Now, it's back to practice. And make no mistake -- this team is still trying to get better, make that jar overflow.
"I think for this weekend we should get a dollar each," Paulhus Gosselin said as he laughed. "It's about worth that."
And so much more.
Heather Dinich is a college football and basketball writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCAA Tournament 2008
Analysis• Katz: Sneak peek at Sweet 16
• Forde: Dorsey a confusing, entertaining enigma
• Low: Vols figuring out unsteady point-guard play
• Schlabach: Horn, Lee break through at WKU
• Dinich: Davidson proves it is no one-man show
• ATR: UCLA wins, Day 3 recaps
• Katz: Neitzel shoots Spartans into Sweet 16
• Gene Woj: Trent Johnson nearly costs his team
• Miller: Tough to stop Cardinal's Twin Towers
• Griffin: Wisconsin gives vintage performance
• O'Neil: WVU players embrace Huggs' toughness
• ATR: The end to IU's tumultuous season
• Katz: What's on tap for the weekend?
• Forde: Tampa was awesome ... wish I was there
• Schlabach: Still can't believe the 'Tampa Turmoil'
• Schlabach: Siena joins upset party in Tampa
• Schlabach: USD's Grier no long in the shadows
• Schlabach: WKU's Rogers hits 'dream' shot
• Dinich: Curry puts on a show against Gonzaga
• ATR: Arizona's questions, Pitt and MSU roll
• O'Neil: Belmont lets Duke upset slip away
• Griffin: Beasley, Walker team up to down USC
• Gene Woj: Kentucky's roller coaster ends
• O'Neil: Xavier survives Dawgs' upset bid
• Forde: Best case/Worst case scenarios
• Lunardi: Ranking the teams 64-1
• Experts: "Best of" lists for tourney
• Whelliston: Mount St. Mary's honors friend
• Forde: Bruce Pearl's purgatory
• Katz: Officiating has had a rough season
• Gottlieb: Scrutiny on officials higher than ever
• Katz: Mayo, Love exceed freshman expectations
• Rittenberg: Baby Boilers lead Purdue to Dance
• Wojciechowski: Liking Psycho T isn't about race
• Bilas: Grading the committee and talking snubs
• Regions: East | South | West | Midwest
• Forde: Super-sized edition of Forde Minutes
• O'Neil: Serendipitous storylines fill bracket
• Katz: Committee chair talks hot topics
• Wojciechowski: 15 suggestions to improve Dance
• Dinich: UNC's Tobacco Road to San Antonio
News• Curry says he's returning to Davidson next year
• Ford Field, Reliant raise NCAA tourney to new level
• UCLA's Mbah a Moute to have MRI
• Nova's Drummond done for season
• Vols' Pearl explains decision to start Prince
• Stanford's Johnson not changing after ejection
• UConn: Price tore ACL, likely to miss six months
• Love, Mbah a Moute on mend for UCLA
• Arkansas' Weems hurts knee, expected to play
Video• Vitale: Rounds 1 & 2 MVP
• Vitale: Round 1 prime-time players
• Gottlieb: Mid-majors make their mark
• Lunardi: Video previews for all 65
• Breaking down the East region
• Breaking down the West Region
• Breaking down the Midwest region
• Breaking down the South region
• ESPN experts fill out their brackets
Audio• Podcast: Bilas looks at Thursday's games
• Podcast: Gottlieb makes bracket predictions
Strategies• Tiernan: "Low-risk" bracket strategy
• Tiernan: "Medium" bracket advice
• Tiernan: "High-risk" bracket strategy
• Tiernan: "Dangerous" bracket advice
Photos• Day 4 photo gallery
• Day 3 photo gallery
• Day 2 photo gallery
• Day 1 photo gallery
More• Tournament Challenge | Bracket Master
• Insider tourney guide | BracketCaster