Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Little by Little

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball at UNCG

Making their way from the Davidson locker room to the post-game interview in the Fleming Gym media room, Stephen (Are you not entertained?) Curry and MAX Paulhus Gosselin look simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated.

As many words as I will write, SteF-in sums up Davidson’s down-to-the-wire
83-78 thriller in one. “WOW,” he sighs more than says.

Call me a pessimist, but when the Spartans took a 9-0 lead behind the dominant play of current SoCon Player of the Year Kyle Hines, I wasn’t exactly feeling the “wow” factor.

Watching the players and coaches on the bench… they too looked, well, uneasy. For most of the first half, the Davidson contingent, fat and happy (?) and accustomed of late to kicking back and watching, could only sit quietly, nervously, and watch as the UNCG students more than earned their middle block of seats and the pep band played the SportsCenter theme song for what seemed the 10 millionth time.

“We were a little down,” Curry said of the locker room mood at halftime. “Coach told us to find a way to win. To chip away little by little.”

“To play defense. To stop them from shooting threes in our face. To keep our heads cool,” MAX says of the coaching staff’s halftime advice. “Chip away, chip away until we get in a position to win. Which we did.”

“It wasn’t really that bad,”
Thomas Sander, relegated to street clothes on this evening, said of the team’s half-time mentality. “We weren’t really down. We made some adjustments. We have a mature team. I feel like we all knew that we were gonna come back.”

In the first stanza, the Spartans simply couldn’t miss – hitting an insane 9-of-12 from behind the arc and shooting a blistering 69.6 percent (16-of-23) in the first half. On the flip side, Davidson simply couldn’t get a stop, much less mount an attack. When the ‘Cats took to the locker room trailing 52-37, I didn’t exactly feel hopeful.

Nothing if not confident, men’s basketball SID Joey Beeler said, “We are still gonna win,” and I told director of marketing Martin McCann, well, it’s either gonna be a really ugly loss or one heck of a comeback.

Forty-one points from Stephen ensured it was the latter.

I have no –zero, nothing, nada – notes from the first half and four pages worth from the second, so that tells you something. But there isn’t really one play or even player that can sum up the game, and I have four pages of notes because I kept waiting for it.

Watching Steph put up 41 was fun, to be sure, but every player in red kicked it up a notch in the second half so that effort mattered in the end. Doing exactly what they discussed, the Wildcats did exactly what they had to do to win; they chipped away, little by little.

Finally within striking distance at 60-52 with just over 13 minutes to play, the ‘Cats send SteF to the line to cap off the and-one play, and the shift in momentum is nearly tangible. Tearing through a pack of gum on most days, I decide to get a new piece in honor of the new karma. This might happen, you start thinking.

Soon after, a
BORIS! Meno rebound on one end turns into a Jason Richards layup on the other, and the ‘Cats are down just three, 65-62.

And then, the obligatory SteF sequence puts the ‘Cats on top. Steal, three, defensive rebound, finger-roll lay-in rattles around the rim and takes an eternity to fall, but does. Davidson, up 67-65. Greensboro, TIMEOUT.

The emotion that was mounting finally explodes. Stephen taunts the crowd; Jason, who left the game gushing blood from a cut above his eye, returns, thanks to the A-game of athletic trainer Ray Beltz, chest bumping and high fiving; the coaching staff is clapping, smiling, the bench standing and cheering. No, this happens.

“One of the most fun games I’ve probably played in my life,” Max says. I ask him if that’s a hyperbole, and as he begins clarifying, I get lost in his accent. To overcome our language barrier, he clarifies slowly, “It was real fun.”

“Exciting to say the least,” Steph says, post 41, post media room, post radio. “We brought a lot of fans and to find a way to win without The General and against a team like this on the road, that was pretty exciting.”

“It was really fun to watch Steph, and to see the team rally around him,” Thomas says of his unusual view from the bench. “It was a little nerve wracking, and I felt a little helpless. You aren’t out there so you can’t control what’s happening. I have superstitions though. I got a new piece of gum at halftime.”

Guess what? Same kind. As it turns out, peppermint Orbitz proved very good luck for the Wildcats.

As if this weren't enough, we're going to launch another NEW feature to enhance the Wildcat experience. Email your questions for the players and coaches to labiggers@davidson.edu, and I'll bring you the best questions and answers. My question of the day: favorite movie. Stephen: Scream. Max: Life is Beautiful. What do you want to know? Ask.

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