Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rivalry Renewed

By Lauren Biggers
Men's Basketball vs. Charlotte
Dec. 11, 2010

Last time I wrote about lessons learned. About how I was going to take each game at face value, enjoy it, learn some stuff, apply it and move on. And this – this Davidson 82-68 victory over Charlotte in what was the best atmosphere at Belk arena in a long, long time, was the perfect game to start. But for the face value part.

Because with this one, you gotta mention the history.

The last time Charlotte-Davidson got together was memorable. I REMEMBER trekking over to Halton Arena with my entire family of newly-minted Wildcat fans and sitting in the nosebleeds (as you can imagine, I don’t enjoy that much) only to have Leemire Goldwire (hall of fame name) repeatedly drop daggers through my soul. The one before that was memorable, too, you know, because “HE’s... a ... freshman.” I haven’t personally been involved in any beyond that, but I’ve been told this holds true. That you are supposed to want that trophy, no matter how ugly it may be.

So when Charlotte came back to Belk Arena last night it was a big deal. I mean, Coach McKillop wore a three-piece pinstriped suit (!). Sure, the BlackOut game always creates a little bit of buzz, but the conversation and anticipation surrounding this one was a throwback to the TV lights era.

And at face value, it didn’t disappoint either. From the time the UNCCharlotte, er, Charlotte (right @bmckillop1?) cheerleaders came running out of the tunnel (no freaking way... they! brought! cheerleaders!) to the last of 10 late-game fouls (what? You can’t score 17 points in 2.5 seconds?), this one was entertaining.

Charlotte hit the court with a fury, and nearly a 1:1 coach to player ratio. Head coach Alan Major started following me on twitter this week, because I’m sure he thought I might spill a secret or two. Instead, as he took his seat next to me on the end of the scorers table, I imagined him shaking his head, ‘child, you watch too much bad reality TV.” He did not, of course, but a girl can dream.

When Jake stood in for the jump ball with “Jump Around” blaring, I wished aloud I had gotten him a fake tattoo or two. But once again, the black unis proved karmic (though konfusing... hey, I told you. Too much Kardashians...) enough. He scored the game’s first five points, and the Arener was rocking. A jumper from An’Juan Wilderness (I submit to you, a great last name) put Charlotte within one, 7-6, and soon enough, behind foul trouble and shooting woes, Davidson fell behind, 18-14.

Coach McKillop took a timeout after Jamar Briscoe’s three with 8:44 remaining, and the head official dropped off a stray ladybug at the table. I could argue that either was a turning point, but the game shifted for good after a MONSTAR fast-break dunk from Charlotte’s Javarris Barnett. It put the Niners up one, 28-27 with just 1:31 to play in the half, and could have been a real back-breaker. But BMcK was up the court in a split second, burying a three-ball and tossing off a look to the crowd that simultaneously killed the Charlotte momentum and created a near riot in the D-block.

The Wildcats took a one-point half-time lead and turned it into 10 as Nik Cochran went coast-to-coast with 13:40 left to play. From there, it was all Wildcats, with Big Ben Allison getting in a thunderously avenging dunk of his own, the Davidson Village Inn Santa Bike bringing some holiday spirit and the D-block doing a fantastic rendition of “Jingle Bells.” A rim-rattling dunk from De’Mon (Bootz) Brooks pushed the lead to a game-high 19, and the Niners ran out of gas right in front of 5,000 impressively vocal fans.

It’s easy to say it’s a good night when you win. But when its your job to escort a literally limping 19-year-old kid down the hallway to the media room, where he must sit and answer questions about why his team couldn’t do more/enough/anything to win, you do it without too much judgment. “I think it’s pretty obvious, we don’t have a lot of depth,” he apologizes.

Instead, you give the Niners and Major some props (come on... he tweets!). They never quit, fouling til the last tenth-of-a-second with the cheerleaders working hard to get a reaction out of the crowd (surely by now, they have realized they were in front of the Davidson staff/parents/coaches section? no?).

By contrast, the Davidson players come bouncing into the media room. Really, JAKE?! You couldn’t get one more rebound? He smiles, glances at the box score, sighs, “MAAAN.”

But no one wearing black is disappointed this night. Now, where do we hide that trophy?

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