Curry, Davidson too much for USC
It's Stephen Curry's world. The Gamecocks just got to play in it.
The NCAA scoring champion poured in 32 points, including 20 in the second half, as Davidson knocked off South Carolina in the opening round of the NIT 70-63 at the Colonial Life Arena. Though the NIT committee implemented rules to give teams a more neutral feeling facility to play in, the building was nowhere near the enormously loud facility that had helped USC to a 16-2 home record during the regular season. Less than 7,500 fans turned out for game, of which a large portion supported the Wildcats. While the Garnet Army was loud, the Davidson faithful would not be denied.
"We've had that all year. We've built us a great army to follow us and support us all year," Curry said. "So they stayed faithful even though we didn't make it to the tournament. That just shows you what Davidson is all about."
Davidson (27-7) took advantage of a cold shooting performance in the first half by the Gamecocks as Curry hit a 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the game at 23-12 with just eight minutes left in the first half.
But Carolina (21-10) eventually responded with a small run of their own and narrowed the gap to 28-26 at the half as USC guard Devan Downey hit a lay-up with time winding down.
USC's poor shooting effort seemed to roll over from their first round loss to Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament as the Gamecocks finished the first half shooting just 25 percent from the field. If not for 13 free throws, USC might have seen itself in a much bigger deficit.
"Maybe we were a little anxious, trying to do a little too much early, but we also had some good shots that just didn't go in," USC coach Darrin Horn said. "Mentally I think that can affect you."
Carolina would pick things up in the second half as they continued to chip away at the Davidson lead. A put back basket by Austin Steed narrowed the gap to one, and on the following possession USC took its first lead since the 13:51 mark in the first half as Downey hit a running lay-up for a 44-43 lead.
But Curry would answer on the next possession as he drilled a 3-pointer that would allow Davidson to retake the lead and never look back as Carolina could only manage to tie the game two more times.
Eventually, USC's luck ran out as Curry hit 8-of-8 free throws in the second half and hit a three point shot with under six minutes to go that gave Davidson a five point lead at 60-55. USC never brought the margin below five again.
"I just think as a whole the energy and emotion weren't there. It was postseason and you really have to play with a whole lot of energy and emotion and I think as a whole, over the course forty minutes we didn't bring it," Downey said. "We had it in spurts, but as a whole I don't think we brought the energy and emotion we needed to win."
Davidson coach Bob McKillop said that during a time of prayer at St. Peter's Catholic Church prior to the game he heard the voice of former USC coach Frank McGuire tell him to worry because it was St. Patrick's Day.
But for Horn, he doesn't believe luck had anything to do with Davidson's win over the Gamecocks.
"I think they showed tonight why they're a team that's won an awful lot of games in the last few years," Horn said. "They're an extremely tough basketball team. And Curry showed why he's going to be a first round draft pick probably this year if he wants to."
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