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March 3, 2007

Davidson wins NCAA bid out of Southern Conf.

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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -Freshman Stephen Curry scored 29 points to lead Davidson back to the NCAA tournament, beating College of Charleston 72-65 to win the Southern Conference championship Saturday night.

Curry, the son of former NBA standout Dell Curry, capped his remarkable first SoCon tournament - he totaled 89 points in three games - by celebrating the Wildcats' second straight title and trip to the NCAAs.

The Wildcats (29-4) also spoiled the fairy tale run of College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins, who had hoped to lead a third school to the NCAAs in his first season back in the college game.

But Curry was too much for the Cougars (22-11) to overcome.

With Davidson trailing 56-51 with 9:32 left, Curry hit two straight 3-pointers to tie the game at 59. Boris Meno followed with a three-point play to give Davidson a lead it would never give up.

When it was over, Curry leaped high, arm extended to signal Davidson was again No. 1 in the Southern Conference.

It was the Wildcats' third title since 2002 and fourth under coach Bob McKillop - another New Yorker who made good coaching down South.

Davidson already surpassed the school record for victories set by Lefty Driesell's 1968-69 team that finished 27-3. Now McKillop moved past Driesell in NCAA trips by a Davidson coach.

Now, McKillop will see if he can match the NCAA success Driesell brought the Wildcats - Lefty's teams were 5-4 in the tournament.

Davidson has lost its opening game in its three previous NCAA appearances, including a 70-62 defeat by second-seeded Ohio State last year.

Meno added 14 points for the Wildcats.

Dontaye Draper, College of Charleston's top scorer, was held to eight points on 2-of-11 shooting. David Lawrence and Jermaine Johnson led the Cougars with 13 points apiece.

The biggest question coming into this one was how much stamina Draper and the Cougars had left after their thrilling 89-87 overtime victory over Appalachian State in Friday night's semifinal.

Draper had a career-high 38 points against the Mountaineers and looked just as crisp at the start against Davidson, scoring the Cougars' first five points.

But Draper didn't hit another shot the rest of the game.

With Draper off target - he had eight 3s in the semifinal victory - Charleston struggled to find offense. The Cougars were just 3-of-14 behind the arc in the second half.

Davidson had its own troubles shooting at first, falling behind 31-26 after the third of Tony White Jr.'s first-half 3-pointers. Curry, as he has much of the season, answered for Davidson, scoring the next nine points to tie things at 35-all.

Andrew Lovedale's bucket in the final minute sent the Wildcats into the break ahead 37-35.

Curry finished the half with 15 points.



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