Saturday, January 31, 2009

Nothing Ordinary

Especially by Tim Cowie
Men's Basketball at Samford

I am not a writer.

Unlike Biggers and Kruse, who somehow make words flow like water rolling over stones in a quiet forest stream on a fall day, I write with the prose of a hot, humid August afternoon.

What I know is what I see. This week, my eyes had the privilege to see behind the scenes of our men’s basketball program.

There is no ordinary week in a college basketball season.

Unless you consider “ordinary” being – class, practice, play, class, practice, fly, play, class, practice, fly, play and practice again, only to start another week. If that’s ordinary, so be it, but what I can tell you, there is nothing “ordinary” about our men’s team, the staff, and the journey that they lead.

What tidbit of information can I give you about their journey? What inside scoop is there to be had? What really goes on behind the scenes that make our team so special and different than the rest? Why do we win 41 consecutive SoCon games, have a record of 18-3 and are the nation’s basketball darlings?

It’s simple really. In the minds of the players and coaching staff, we are simply trying to win the next basketball game. Practice prior to the Samford departure is as it always is – focused on details.

Defense. I don’t know if Bob speaks the often said cliché – “defense wins championships,” but it’s inherent in what they do. Ask Landry Kosmalski this week if he believes that and how that affects results. Details.

Flight. Don’t know if you realize this, but UT-Chattanooga and Samford are not easy road trips on any day. Certainly not easy on a Wednesday and a Saturday of the same week. A bus trip twice in one week, let alone a commercial flight would have meant long days and more importantly, extended missed class time. A faithful alum made this week possible. Two charter flights, well-rested team, two wins.

Jealous? I understood the question. I understood why it was mentioned.

What I didn’t see is extravagance.

I saw take-out from the Soda Shop, normal pre-game meals, vans to the airport driven by staff, a plane that was a far cry from the luxury private jets we hear auto and bank execs take for weekend jaunts, a bus with missing overhead storage doors (albeit a driver that just graduated from NASCAR school), post game showers in another building and pizza while on the bus going back to the airport.

I mention this not to make you think the team isn’t grateful. Important – extremely. Extravagant – hardly. Thankful – most certainly. Jealous – are you crazy?

The “Shot.” All of us had expectations of how the Samford game should play out. We just witnessed in one fashion or another a great road win over a team that all of us fear (all meaning – everyone but the team), on their home court, 9,000 plus fans, with of course, the exclamation point for the night being the “Shot.”

Samford, on the other hand, is another game and for the team, another milepost on the season’s highway. There are no thoughts of the journey traveled. They are focused on the next milepost. They don’t look into the dark distance, straining to see what can’t be seen. There are no forks in the road, only the next milepost.

Trust. Oh, we all know Trust, Care, Commitment by now. I saw trust in other forms this weekend. The trust that Bob has within his staff. Today, Coach Fox confidently broke down the scouting report. By the way, for all of you message board naysayer’s, Coach Fox had it down pat. I’m not going to divulge the details, as that would betray the opportunity that was bestowed upon me.

I will say, that while sitting in a sold out Hanna arena, this school, nestled quietly in a valley at the tail of the Appalachians, searched for something within to make the “Magic City” proud. As the game unfolded, I sense an extreme case of deja vous, reminded of Fox’s pearls of wisdom.

Trust. The team trusts the staff to guide them through good games and bad. Outside of a few dressed in Davidson red, 5,200 white clad fans don’t understand what “trust” means to our players and our program. To look in our player’s eyes, you don’t see fear. Was today a banner day? No, far from it. Did we shoot well, execute offensively, jump in the path of the cutter, for that matter, heed the words of Coach Fox? No.

As fans finished rolling their remotes searching for SportsSouth, fought with Teamline to hear John Kilgo (anxiously waiting to see how long it took to hear about dogs and a balancing bowl lady) or furiously typing 26 pages on the message board, the likes of “Stan” and others found ways to worry about an impending loss.

Yes, there were some “home run” passes, defensive lapses, mistimed shots, and a bad foul or two. Never, was their fear or doubt from those that allowed me to join them on this journey. A quiet confidence, gained from hours of attention to detail. A trust that can’t be imposed, purchased or transferred, but gained only through total commitment. A commitment that started 20 years ago.

So while others were wringing their hands, writing thread upon thread or screaming at their computer or TV about why Steve passed the ball behind his back, Steph made the "home run" pass or Andrew didn’t finish a power move, I sat quietly in the stands. I sensed with the rest of the team, the confidence that Andrew would get the next rebound or Steve would quietly slip from the high post to deliver two points off of a perfectly delivered “single” by Steph. I sat there confidently expecting Bryant to make two free throws. Feel free to write about 50 percent free throw shooting statistics, but with this team it wasn’t Bryant at the line, it was his entire team. For that matter, it wasn’t Steph that made the “Shot” earlier in the week; it was the defensive stop, the Andrew rebound and Bryant running out on the break. Details.

We can talk about the five security guards on the bus to help the guys get from the locker room, the throngs of waiting children and the adults that pretended that they were there only for their children, but ultimately it was just about another milepost.

The plane lands, the vans fill, and “Killer” is off to Shady Acres. The quiet drive back to campus leads one to think only of the next milepost to be reached on Monday. There is no straining into the darkness. Leave it to others to think of the Coliseum up the road in the “Gate City” or how to “black out” an arena for the likes of Vitale and Patrick.

I am confident that this team moves forward, not trying to live with Elite 8 expectations or how to replace the likes of Thomas, Boris and Jason.

They move forward knowing they were better than they were at the beginning of January, confident that with hard work and commitment, they will be better at the beginning of March.

They move forward with only one milepost in their midst.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ten Most Exciting Things

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Furman

It’s a running joke around here.
(And they can’t laugh at you if you’re laughing, too, my friends.)

It’s a running joke around here that I write for mostly my entertainment. It’s true, of course, but I like to think that a few people in cyberspace are entertained along the way. (And I need at least two hands now to count readers... Thanks Mom!)

And yet, if ever there was a time to retitle this blog, “The View from Press Row of Things that Entertain Lauren and Gavin Other Than The Game,” this was it.

Because on the court, well... the ‘Cats won, 83-43.

The stat lines were good, as they will be when you shoot 55.6 percent from the field as a team.

The Ringer was 12-of-18 overall, 6-of-10 (!!) from behind the line, with five assists and five steals.

WILL (he’s earned his capital letters now, I think) Archambault added another 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

MAX, the WL, Ben Allison and Dan Nelms all added at least a pair of baskets, and Andrew LOVEdale turned in another solid effort with seven rebounds (All Defensive!), five points and three blocks.

Even Steve Rossiter (not even... rather, additionally) finished with nine points on a lone made bucket after going 7-for-8 at the line (coaching point 1: make your free throws).

But there was excitement, too.

If I were, indeed, mailing in this column (and I know, by now you have your suspicions), I would have made a list of the top 10 most entertaining things of the night. Because I’m sure there were at least 10.

There was the D-Block chanting, “We want shirts; We want shirts” just before the 8-minute media timeout, a call answered, swiftly, by assistant SID Matt Harris and His Amazing T-shirt Launcher (which he dubbed later in the office one of the Top 10 moments of his life.) That media timeout – and the game, really, punctuated by a rim-rattling exclamation point (!) of a dunk from Frank Ben-Eze.

There was MAX-Pauhlus-Gosselin leaping over the scorer’s table for a loose ball despite a 40(ish)-point lead (coaching point 2: value the basketball) much to the crowd’s delight... and WILL’s ... and Steve’s. Suffocating Wildcat defense that allowed just four (FOUR!) Furman points in 17:10 in the second half.

The debut of the new fan student newspaper, yet to be named (students, submit your suggestions to for a chance at 10 Wildcat Pride Points. Non-student winners, a shot at normal pride points). Doing the Lobster Claw. Another sellout crowd. A trophy for College Athlete of the Year that could (might?) easily double as the most expensive candy dish in the history of college apartments.

And there was TV Teddy. Confession: I love the guy. And I love, even more, the fact that he worked this game. If it were up to me, he would work them all. I’m not a coach (coaching point 3: have an act), so my reasons are purely selfish. But someone get the man a reality show.

And yet, with all the excitement on the court (see, I’ve proven it...), I got a mid-game text that read, correctly, the 10 most exciting games in Belk Arena today were in darts. THAT would be a good Top 10.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This is Addictive

Especially by (SID Protoge) Will Bryan
Men's Basketball vs. Elon

So a little over a year ago, Davidson won a classic conference grudge match at Elon University. Many remember Stephen Curry's eight points in the final minutes as a defining moment of the season.

I remember that night as the time when Lauren Biggers emerged as the preeminent Davidson basketball blogger. She took over my blog (Will's World) that night and never turned back.

Tonight, I return the favor.

I promise a few less of these (!) and a little less of that screwy Mac-centered formatting…(I was just told I can't change that).

So we're back for SoCon play in Belk Arena. Another capacity crowd was on hand and students were back in school (I don't remember that break being this long when I was here).

This crowd had all the familiar faces and a few new ones, as Joe Gibbs joined us in the arener with his new season tickets.

This stretch is all about familiarity and repetition. Same coaches and same players that we know and love (Ola ola ola ola). Same trends (Is Brett James sparking a comeback again?)

But in the end, it's Davidson on top. For the 42nd time in a row (including tournaments), Davidson came out on top against one of those familiar squads with the SoCon logo on their jersey.

So what set this one apart?

Well, there was the focus on interior scoring at the beginning (Rossiter scored his four points in the first three minutes). What about those five blocks and that rebounding advantage (36-33)?

Steph did his thing again. It actually made a message boarder eek that he's back (he's back?!?). Dagger three at the end of the half off a 50-50 ball that made new Elon assistant Wes Miller slam his clipboard and Bob McKillop nod.

This was the learning experience that you can't just sit on your laurels with a 22- point halftime lead.

"We need to be killers." Steph said.

What about you as the best passer in college basketball?

Head rub…look to the ground. "Home runs…I need to work on those six turnovers I had. We hadn't prepared for that full court pressure since we only had time to look at their half-court sets."

That's what this is about.

Learning on the fly. Springing new leaks and fixing some old ones.

Print off the box score. Go to the Brickhouse and do it again next week.

It's almost addicting in its repetition. Be careful Lauren. I might not want to give this back up now.

When's the next home one? Next Wednesday? Hmm...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Lucky Number Seven

By Lauren Biggers
Women's Basketball vs. Georgia Southern

There’s a team in Davidson playing some pretty good basketball right now.

They have the best record in the Southern Conference. Sport a perfect league record.

Boast the pre-season Player of the Year on their roster.

No, not those Wildcats.

Sports Illustrated isn’t knocking down the door to get these interviews and beat writers from Charlotte to Germany (!) aren’t angling for access. The casual sports fan couldn’t name (or even mispronounce) a single player on this roster, and I’m willing to bet they don’t get hounded for autographs at the mall (phone numbers, probably, but not autographs).

But while you’ve been caught up in the MADness surrounding the Davidson Wildcat men’s team (and rightly so, kettle), the other team that plays in Belk Arena has quietly rolled to a perfect 7-0 Southern Conference record.

The Wildcat women’s team picked up their lucky number seventh win yesterday afternoon in a 65-54 win over Georgia Southern.

Four (!) Wildcats finished in double figures, led by a monstrous effort from junior Julia Paquette with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting.

Preseason SoCon POY Mercedes Robinson finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, getting her fifth straight double-double on an offensive rebound and put-back in the last minute of play to punctuate the ‘Cats’ win, and junior Alex Thompson turned in another solid performance with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting along with five assists and ZERO turnovers.

But this one took 17 second-half points from No. 24, sophomore Ashley Lax (held scoreless in the first) to seal the deal.

The Wildcats got big performances from Julia (nine points!) and senior Mandy Halbersleben (SEVEN REOUNDS!) in the first half, but were deadlocked at 26 entering the second.

This one needed LAX, who scored her first bucket with 11:45 to go. And just didn’t stop.

Afterwards in the training room, I caught up with her for a few minutes. (Delivered to her “interview” and encouraged by Mercedes, “Don’t be scared of Lauren.” Thanks 'Cedes.)

What happened for you in the second half, I want to know?

“I want to score and I wanted to beat this team,” she answers like a seasoned pro. “I just tried to figured out what I can do to make that happen. Just relaxing and looking for more opportunities.”

Saturday afternoon, LAX capitalized on those opportunities, as her Wildcats stayed perfect in league play.

“Like Coach said after the game, there’s no reason for us to play tentative because this is something the school has never done before. So there’s no pressure,” she says.

“I can honestly say that we care about each other, and I want to do it for the girl sitting next to me.”

And you? You should see it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Just Dance

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball at Duke

“Well, that was worth it,” one Cameron crazie said to another as they were leaving the court.

I remember being a college kid trying to get good seats for a big-time game, so I get what that means. And for my part, I’d agree. The two-hour drive was definitely worth it (The media room had popcorn shrimp!).

As our entourage made its way back down South I-85 after the Wildcats’ 79-67 loss at No. 2 Duke, a song came on the mixed CD I made for the trip. (ROAD TRIP!)

“Just Dance... Gonna be OK.”

I snack on an Oreo McFlurry in the back on the school’s Sable (which doesn’t have a very good turning radius, it would seem), and Lady GaGa somehow sums it up.

It didn’t really feel like it was gonna be OK when the ‘Cats trailed 37-24 at the half or when the Blue Devils stormed to a 26-point lead five minutes into the second period, though.

At the break, I abandoned “press row” (seriously???) and, after finally finding a women’s restroom (where oddly enough not one person said a word about the game... we are at a game, ladies, no?), ran into Davidson’s own volleyball coach/photographer Tim Cowie, who offered his take. That it would take a “Georgetown effort” for a Wildcat victory.

Being superstitious, and having had a similar conversation at last season’s comeback at Greensboro, I liked, and agreed, with this assessment.

But then. Then the Blue Devils opened the second period with an 8-0 run, before pulling ahead an intimidating 26-point margin.

But then. Then a Georgetown effort.

“All of a sudden, it’s an 8-point game, and Lance is at the line. How the hell did that happen?” Coach K (can’t spell it. Don’t want to look it up... Sable, remember.) asks in the post-game.

Because Andrew LOVEdale would not be denied. 15 points. Seven rebounds. FOUR BLOCKS. It was HIS ball. No matter which way it bounced or which Duke defender was taller. Except for those precious few late.

Because The One they Taunt Futiley would not be denied. 29 points. Eight rebounds (REBOUND!). Six assists. Two steals. The lane was his, so you’d better, um, move or be moved. Defenders finally couldn’t keep up and his shot refused to not go in. Except for those precious few late.

And so they sit at the podium afterwards.

“We got better as a team today,” Coach McKillop tells the room. And these two. “That late loose ball scrum indicates that we gave everything we had.”

“Our system,” assesses The One whose Name they Still Mispronounce. “We found out how to execute it. They made that big second-half run, and we got down by 20, but we didn’t panic. We got some stops down the stretch.”

“We didn’t do what we were supposed to do, which is win a basketball game, but like Coach said, we got better,” LOVEdale offers.

And it’s true. It wasn’t a win. And I won’t write that it was a moral victory.

But it wasn’t a loss. Because this team... This team will get better because of it.

In the meantime, just dance. It’s gonna be OK.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Welcome Back

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Samford

This guy I used to work with in another lifetime had this idea of a “drive-up song.” Every time he pulled into the stadium, whether in the morning, afternoon or evening, he’d put on the same song.

An interesting idea, and guy for that matter, to be sure, but I started thinking about it as I pulled into Belk Arena for Saturday’s 76-55 win over Samford, (and not into the back lot without my parking pass. Mister parking lot attendant, if you happen to read this, I told you I work for Davidson... really, really, sir, I swear.)

“Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back.”

Christmas break is one of the good parts about working for an academic institution, and two weeks off is literally an eternity in athletics, where pretty much every day is a work day, and there is little distinction between weekday and weekend.

And after three days of high school basketball at the Bojangles Shootout tournament, benefiting Dell Curry’s
Athletes United for Youth foundation,it was nice to be back in my normal spot on press row, complete with media timeouts, shot clocks, and yes, Sweet Caroline.

The familiar sounds of Coach McKillop, easily claiming the night’s best-dressed award in pin stripes en route to his 350th Wildcat win, from the bench. (TI TIE WATCH: Baby-doll pink. Three stars.)

“Come on, Steph.”

This game never really in question, it was good to see Mr. 2000 live and in color again, wasn’t it? With 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting (5-of-6 from downtown) along with eight assists, four steals and four rebounds, it was easily his best performance of 2009.

Joining Wildcat greats John Gerdy and Fred Hetzel, he becomes just the third player in Davidson history to reach the plateau.

“Scoring that much is pretty cool for me because of the few people who have done it,” he says in a long-distance “interview” from south of the border. “To be named with those greats is an honor.” Ever polished, he adds, “But we can’t let it be a distraction.”

And while not everyone was back to work or school – the students still on break, including Mr. Wildcat and personal fav White Lobster, absent, the crowd did not disappoint nor, for that matter, were they disappointed.

Along with the 21, Ben Allison and Will Archambault dropped in 12 each in solid efforts, as all but three ‘Cats found their way into the scoring column in a good look balanced attack.

“It means a lot to have that many people at the game over Christmas break without the students there,” Mr. 3000 (?) continues. “And with this road stretch coming up we needed a solid performance at home.”

And to keep it light and lest anyone else wonder... seriously, the mouthguard?

It was one of two favorite moments from Saturday’s game.

(The other, btw, is Will not-in-my-house Archambault’s serious shakeoff of a defender and subsequent trey - a third straight from the same spot on the wing. Complete with intense glare.)

The action stopped, game decided, he drops his trusty (note: clear) mouthguard under the basket, fumbles it a few times before popping it back in.

“I didn’t really think about how dirty it was before I put it back in because the play was about to start and I had to protect my teeth.”

To an impressive chorus of “eeeeewwwws.”

If we’ve taught you one thing, let it be that people are always watching.

5,223 on Saturday afternoon at Belk.

It was good to be back, wasn’t it?

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