Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Another Stephen Curry Story

By: Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball at Elon

When I decided to make the trip up to Elon, it was mostly because it was a Wednesday night, and my other option was actually cooking a meal and a trip to the gym. Tivo was handling the North Carolina game, which wasn’t compelling enough to force me to stay inside anyways, no disrespect to UNC Asheville intended. I also forgot about the ridiculous 9 p.m. tip time. Nonetheless, a commitment is a commitment, and I’d never been to Elon. Plus, I’ve been angling for a posting on Will’s World for a while, and what better night than tonight. All this to say I was excited about writing a column about the Wildcats. It was supposed to be fun.

But this, what was happening, this was anything but fun. Knowing my intentions to write something about the game rather than sit and watch, and finding said intentions humorous, Joey Beeler, men’s basketball SID, asked about my angle. Have to wait and see, I told him. These things have to unfold, after all, and that takes time.

A few minutes into the first half I had figured out the story. The backcourt superhero duo of
Jason Richards and Stephen (not pronounced Steven) Curry had forgotten to get off the bus, but it didn’t matter because the rest of the team was doing the little things. Back-to-back steals by Max Paulhus Gosselin, a favorite on the court and off, and Steph were converted into easy layups. Will hit another key three. Another steal for Max turns into a smart dish for Jason that ends in an Andrew Lovedale basket on the break. And yet, the little things weren’t adding up to a big lead. In fact, there was a little deficit instead. And worse, a staggering line, Curry just 0-3 in the first half and without a three, threatening to snap a streak of insane proportions.

And things weren’t getting any better. If you were watching the game from the Davidson end of press row, it seemed like the Wildcats were down 50, but when you looked up at the scoreboard you felt relieved it was just two. Two points with 10 minutes to play. Panic, with this team anyways, didn’t set in. Every loose ball was chased into the stands, every board crashed for a rebound, but the rim seemed no bigger than the needle of an eye. Nothing was falling. Sure, the atmosphere was a bit more intense than the ‘Cats were used to lately, as Elon benefited from a Jan-term student presence, but Davidson had played Duke and North Carolina to the wire in front of much larger, much louder crowds. These were battle-tested, road-weary Wildcats.

Cut to late in the second half. SteF-en picked up his fourth foul with under five minutes to play. Bad news for most teams. Terrible news for the Wildcats, trailing by one. Doesn’t matter, I said to esteemed Davidson SID Marc Gignac. He’s 1-10 anyways. Never wavering, Marc said, He’ll hit the game-winner though.

And then it happened. The most impressive 30 seconds of basketball I’ve been within six inches of. Ask Davidson broadcaster John Kilgo how close press row is to the court. You are practically in the game, proven by a loose ball during shoot around combined with a Coke that made for difficult circumstances for the seasoned play-by-play man.

Down by one, Jason grabs a rebound on the defensive end, and is off, pushing the ball up the court and dishing to Steph before you can say..."this is familiar, we’ve seen this before."

“Well, he kinda reached from behind,” Curry said of his defender at the opposite end, in a postgame interview. He wasn't taking me very seriously for some reason. “And I saw the lane to the basket.”

Mistake number one, don’t grant Curry a lane. That must be in the scouting report somewhere. But the basket, like so many for the ‘Cats this night in this gym, didn’t fall. Still doing the little things,
Thomas Sander, the lone double-doubler of the night for the ‘Cats, grabbed his 13th and arguably most important rebound, and sailed a quick pass to Steph, who connected on his first three of the game to tie the score at 57 and preserve his streak for Beeler’s game notes.

After a Phoenix timeout, Richards, who finished with 10 assists, comes up with another huge steal, finding Steph on the wing on the break yet again. After a couple moves to shake a defender, Dell’s eldest launches a jumper that clanks out. But there is Max, the night’s unsung hero turning in his third straight lockdown effort on defense, for the rebound that requires a belly flop onto the court. Steph takes the pass, gets off the ground, just inside the line, switches hands in mid air – I was there, it happened -- and nails a left-handed shot that makes the Davidson bench go wild and the Elon crowd go silent.

“Every shot I take, I think it’s going in,” Steph says, still entertaining my post-game press conference despite dubbing me “intimidating” and not meaning it at all. “And when they don’t have a hand up, I’m gonna shoot it. You gotta have confidence to shoot it no matter what your stats are. I knew it went in.”

I didn’t want to write a Stephen Curry story. Everyone is doing it. But he outscored the Phoenix 8-0 at the end of a nail biter and forced my hand. I wanted to write about the little things. Like the final 40 seconds of this-is-what-we-were-waiting-for-defense that forced the Phoenix into four, count ‘em, four missed potential game-winning shots.

But tonight, Davidson’s big thing won the game. And as the crowd emptied the building, I overheard one student say to another, "that shot was sick." I like to think it was the same kid I overheard earlier say, "I thought he was good?" We’ll never know for sure, but Gignac concluded and I concurred: the legend grows.

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