DETROIT -- For 159 minutes and 55 seconds, Stephen Curry had carried Davidson as far as he could. As far as anyone could. Stick Larry Bird or Austin Carr or LeBron James on this team, and they couldn't have done more for Davidson than Curry did by scoring 132 points in those 159-plus minutes and getting the Wildcats within one shot of the Final Four.
But with those five seconds still to play, Curry decided he had carried Davidson far enough. Twenty-five feet from the basket and doubled-teamed by Kansas' Brandon Rush and Sherron Collins, Curry spotted teammate Jason Richards open on the other side of the key. Richards has made 131 career 3-pointers. He could have made that one.
|Instead of Curry, it's Jason Richard taking the last shot. Unfortunately for the 'Cats, it goes wide. (AP)|
The ball went to Richards. The shot went wide. Kansas went to the Final Four. Davidson went home.
Basketball-wise, it was the right play. No question about it. For all his offensive genius, the most impressive thing about Curry is his basketball IQ. He doesn't play like the son of an NBA player, although that's what he is. Curry plays like a future coach, which he might be. And in that situation, with Collins all over him and the 6-foot-6 Rush closing fast, passing the ball to Richards was the right play.
It didn't work, and for Davidson the cruelest part of Sunday was the walk back to the locker room. It happened away from the fans, away from the television cameras. It was just the players, the coaches and their thoughts, and for Davidson, the thought was this:
Davidson almost beat Kansas. Almost reached the Final Four. Almost made history in a way no team, not even George Mason in 2006, has ever done. As far as degree of difficulty goes, Davidson has George Mason beat in terms of school size, conference affiliation and academic standards. Imagine Yale reaching the Final Four. That's what Davidson almost did.
But for the rest of us, the cruelest part of Sunday was -- and forever will be -- not knowing what would have happened if Curry had ignored his basketball acumen and taken that final shot. Curry says he won't second-guess himself. He says Rush definitely would have disrupted his shot and might even have blocked it.
"He's so long, he'd been bothering my shot all game," Curry said. "In the Southern Conference, I get that shot off."
They don't have pterodactyls like Rush in the Southern Conference. But they don't normally have an offensive genius like Curry, either. He is fourth nationally in scoring at 25.7 ppg, but he was better than that -- 32 ppg -- against the elite competition he encountered in the NCAA tournament. At various stages of all four tournament games, in fact, he was a one-man show.
- In the first round he outscored Gonzaga 24-22 in the final 15½ minutes.
- In the second round he outscored Georgetown 25-22 in the final 14½ minutes.
- In the Sweet 16 he outscored Wisconsin 22-20 in the second half.
And for an 11-minute stretch Sunday in the Elite Eight, Curry played Kansas to a standstill. In those 11 minutes spanning both halves, Kansas scored 21 points. Curry had 20.