NCAA Tournament: St. Mary’s sends Curry, Davidson home
MORAGA, Calif. ó Patty Mills screamed over the final buzzer and waved both arms joyously skyward, goading the raucous Saint Mary’s fans into what might have been the first storm-the-court celebration in the history of the NIT’s second round.
This was no ordinary early-round game in college hoops’ consolation tournament, however. After winning a full-tilt duel with Davidson’s Stephen Curry, Mills wanted to leave his fans with one last memory to match this entertaining matchup.
Mills had 23 points and 10 assists while leading Saint Mary’s into the NIT quarterfinals with an 80-68 victory Monday night.
Curry had 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists in what might have been the national scoring leader’s final game for the Wildcats (27-8).
Mills and Curry briefly chatted before the game, each telling the other to simply have fun. After occasionally guarding each other, they met up again briefly afterward while dodging the red-clad fans whooping it up at McKeon Pavilion, wishing each other luck until their paths cross again, probably in the NBA.
“It was a personal challenge, and the sort of personal experience you don’t get every week,” Mills said. “I thrive on things like that. It took the whole team to guard (Curry), and we did that, a little bit. He had 26, but we guarded him.”
The NIT rarely gets more intriguing matchups than this showdown between Mills and Curry, two high-scoring point guards who felt their teams were unfairly denied NCAA tournament berths. Neither guard disappointed, but Curry acknowledged Mills and the Gaels (28-6) were a bit sharper overall.
Mills, the Australian Olympic star, scored 17 points in the first half of what probably was his final game at McKeon Pavilion, where fans chant “Aussie Aussie Aussie!” after his baskets.
But Curry, last season’s NCAA hero during Davidson’s run to the regional final, couldn’t quite spur a second-half comeback late in the Wildcats’ cross-country trip, missing 11 of his final 17 shots in an 11-of-27 performance that included four 3-pointers ó but none in the final 10 minutes.
“It was a special game,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said. “I don’t know if I remember a game that’s been a better atmosphere. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been involved in a game in here that’s had more hype and more attention. To play in a game like that, to play well, it makes you really proud of your kids.”
The Gaels’ cacophonous bandbox of a gym high in the Oakland hills was packed to the rafters 30 minutes before tipoff. Fans stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the concrete walkway behind the last row of seats, craning their necks for a partial view of warmups ó during which Curry tripped over his pants and crashed to the floor on a layup attempt, getting up with a sheepish grin.
“Is this the atmosphere that they have for every game?” Davidson coach Bob McKillop asked. “It just blows my mind that they have this kind of crowd. This is very similar to (Duke’s) Cameron (Indoor Stadium) in terms of the noise level, the heat, the intensity, the passion. Saint Mary’s deserves credit for that.”
By Elliot Cave For The Salisbury Post I’m sitting in what is supposed to be a traditional English cafe in... read more