Thursday, January 17, 2008

Road Warriors

By: Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball at Furman


Life on the road can be tough. For the Davidson crew it’s just a hop, skip and a jump down I-85 South to Greenville, S.C. We needed two cars to transport our entourage tonight, but hey, if we can help Billy the manager (extremely well-versed in his classic rock, I might add) get into that Spanish class, we’re happy to help. (Davidson SID Marc Gignac kept teasing with steakhouses, but I for one am glad we held out for the press room pizza.)

But to the Wildcats, the trip to Greenville is a third straight conference road game, and like I said, life on the road can be tough. Channeling the Cameron Crazies, the Furman students did all they could to give their 2-14 Paladins a fighting chance, but the ‘Cats proved every bit hardened.

In Timmons Arena, a building I heard lots of negative things about, not many of which proved true, the “View from Press Row” was certainly treated to a unique view tonight.

Seated behind the Furman basket in the corner farthest away from the Wildcat bench, the official scores table, and well, anything to do with the actual game operations, it felt as if we were a bit banished from the action. (Not the fault of the excellent Paladin sports info department; we just embrace the “go big or go home” theory and thus, take up some space.)

What we got instead was a seat surrounded by Furman students, exactly as missing from my trip to
Wofford. From my (not the slightest bit) cushy seat on press row, I can find humor in opposing students’ rants, but unlike Jason Richards and Thomas Sander, I don’t have to listen to my sister’s name on repeat while trying to focus on the game at hand.

Each time Richards got the ball, the students began chanting his sister’s name, and later in the game, Sander received the same treatment. My own sister might have relished the attention, but I can’t speak for the players’ siblings (Thomas’ sister heard her name being chanted by Furman students courtesy of the radio broadcast, letting us know by her comment on Will Bryan’s live blog at
Will’s World). Neither Jason nor Thomas seemed to mind though. Richards finished with 11 points and eight assists, while Thomas, unaware of the students’ taunting until I mentioned it after the game, added five points and rebounds each.

“We are kinda used to it,” Sander said, dubbing my press conference “his favorite ever.” Okay, maybe not in those exact words, but he liked it. A lot. “Especially from last year at the end of the season, and then this year, we went to a lot of big-time places –Duke, UCLA- that are completely different.”

Not to be left out,
Stephen (according to my press row neighbor, “Wasn’t it Steven last year?”) Curry drew chants of “Overrated” and “Your dad was better,” while some of the Furman students next to me seemed to have animosity for Thomas dating back to high school. Curry once again led the 'Cats in scoring with 14 points.

“Being Davidson in the SoCon, you are always going to get a good contingent of fans pulling against you,” Sander said. “I think we do a good job of tuning it out and focusing on the game.”

But by late in the second half, they didn't have to; this one was over, and the ‘Cats were up big. The students still standing, admirably, dropped the “Overrated” chants in favor of some more “FU”-friendly cheers. (Though a late-game three by
Brendan McKillop got them back in the game momentarily.)

After three straight road wins, including this 73-51 triumph, it will feel good to get back to Belk Arena. I can sit at my desk until 30 seconds remain on the game clock, drink as many Diet Cokes as women’s basketball SID Gavin McFarlin will allow me and, most importantly, not have to eat pizza.

And the Wildcats, who adopted the “Embrace the Bull’s eye” mantra many long weeks ago and seemed to have done just that on this three-game swing, will get Saturday’s big-time match-up with Chattanooga on their home court. On the 100th Anniversary Celebration of Davidson Basketball, Wildcats past, present and future will get a much-needed shot of “Sweet Caroline” in front of a grateful home crowd before taking to the road once more.

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