March 21, 2008
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -It took 39 years, but Davidson is back as a player in the NCAA tournament, thanks to a dynamic guard with a magic touch that none of the big schools wanted.
Stephen Curry scored 30 of his 40 points in the second half and hit the tie-breaking 3-pointer with just over a minute left to lead Davidson to an 82-76 win over Gonzaga on Friday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Displaying his lightning-quick release, Curry hit 8 of 10 3-pointers. His two free throws with 14.5 seconds left iced it for the 10th-seeded Wildcats (27-6), who won their first NCAA game since Lefty Driesell put this tiny liberal arts school on the map in the 1960s.
Curry, the son of former NBA 3-point specialist Dell Curry, wanted to play for his father's alma mater, Virginia Tech. But the big schools shied away from the baby-faced Curry, who has grown four inches to 6-foot-3 since signing with Davidson, and now has put the Wildcats into the second round of the Midwest Regional against the Georgetown-Maryland-Baltimore County winner.
Jason Richards added 15 points and nine assists for Davidson, which extended the nation's longest winning streak to 23 games. Andrew Lovedale had 12 points and one of his 13 rebounds came on the offensive glass, which led to Curry's deciding 3-pointer.
Freshman Steve Gray hit seven 3-pointers and scored 21 points for No. 7 seed Gonzaga (25-8), which blew 11-point leads in both halves to make a first-round exit for the second straight year.
Curry's off-balance 3-pointers and even a left-handed bank shot won over the crowd. With the sophomore hitting six of his first seven 3-point attempts, about the only fan not standing during Davidson's comeback was his father.
Dell Curry watched quietly from the front row, while his wife and most of the neutral fans cheered as Davidson took its first lead on Stephen Rossiter's putback with 8:27 left.
It set up a frantic finish, with Davidson taking a 73-72 lead on Max Paulhus Gosselin's 3-pointer with 4:11 to go. But after Lovedale's free throw, Gonzaga tied it on Jeremy Pargo's driving layup 1:45 left.
Lovedale, who had his first career double-double, then tracked down a Davidson miss on the right wing and quickly fed Curry for his eighth 3.
Pargo added 18 points and Gonzaga shot 51 percent, but the Zags wilted down the stretch in their second straight loss. Austin Daye was 3-for-13 and missed a 3-pointer after Curry put Davidson ahead.
As the final seconds ticked down, Davidson, playing only 160 miles from campus, celebrated its first NCAA tournament win since 1969 with flare. Curry and Richards did consecutive chest bumps before meeting their teammates at midcourt, while Charlotte Bobcats forward Adam Morrison, the symbol of Gonzaga's recent NCAA tournament success, sat dejected behind the Zags' bench.
Davidson, making its third straight NCAA tournament appearance, had played Maryland and Ohio State close the last two seasons, but were determined to get over the hump this season.
They did it behind Curry, who surpassed 30 points for the ninth time. He hit 14 of 22 shots and was one point shy of his career high.
Gray, a freshman who missed the first 10 games with a broken wrist, upstaged his teammates and Curry to start the game.
Gray made all five 3-point attempts in the first 12 minutes and Gonzaga built a 28-17 lead. He hit another 3 early in the second half as Gonzaga used its inside advantage to build a 56-45 lead with 15:06 left.
But Gray was also guarding - or at least assigned to - Curry during Davidson's run.