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NCAA Men's notebook

Upstart Davidson embraced by town, media

STEPHEN CURRY: 70 points in Davidson's run to Sweet 16 STEPHEN CURRY: 70 points in Davidson's run to Sweet 16
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Associated Press / March 25, 2008

The mayor of Davidson, N.C., a small quintessential Southern town, was a teenager during what's referred to as "The Lefty Years" of the 1960s.

John Woods wasn't sure if he would ever again see the level of excitement coach Lefty Driesell brought to his town, when Davidson went to two NCAA regional finals and was considered one of the top basketball programs in the country.

But there was Woods in the stands in nearby Raleigh Sunday, watching sensational sophomore Stephen Curry lead the Wildcats to an improbable comeback win over mighty Georgetown, earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 16.

Riding the nation's longest winning streak at 24 games, and with perhaps the nation's best shooter in Curry, Davidson (28-6) is royalty again.

"This coming week is going to compare really nicely to the truly electric feeling that was here in the Lefty years, when he recruited really great players and took the team to national prominence," Woods said. "I bet I had seven phone calls right after the game, people who just wanted to share the moment with somebody."

Davidson pride was apparent almost everywhere yesterday in this well-to-do town of about 9,000 people 20 miles north of Charlotte. Folks drove around with Davidson flags on their cars. Storefronts on the old-fashioned Main Street had congratulatory messages. The ice cream shop had a "Sweet 16" sundae special for $3.16.

That was after Davidson made a triumphant return to campus Sunday night, hours after Curry scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half and the 10th-seeded Wildcats overcame a 17-point deficit to stun second-seeded Georgetown, 74-70.

The team bus was greeted by a police escort at the edge of town. The little liberal arts school of 1,700 students, which plays in the unheralded Southern Conference, had made the town proud again.

"People were beeping their horns as they passed," coach Bob McKillop said. "People were coming onto their front porch and waving Davidson flags that were once never part of the decor of their house."

"It's been nuts," said the soft-spoken Curry, who has scored 70 points in two NCAA Tournament games. "We've been on a high lately, all the media coverage we've been getting. It's kind of cool, but now we're back at practice."

Davidson's players went through a light workout yesterday to begin preparations for Friday's game in Detroit against No. 2 seed Wisconsin in a Midwest Regional semifinal.

"You look at the newspaper and Thomas [Sander] and Steph are on the front page of USA Today, The Charlotte Observer, ESPN.com," said point guard Jason Richards, who scored 20 points against Georgetown. "It's unbelievable how much the nation is starting to look at Davidson now. We're a small school and we're finally in the national spotlight."

Pearl makes a point

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl took a chance and changed his starting point guard in the middle of the NCAA Tournament.

That paid off just fine, and now he has got a decision to make: Give J.P. Prince his second start or return Ramar Smith to the starting lineup?

On the line is a chance for Tennessee to go to its first regional final.

"We've given a lot of attention to that," Pearl said. "It isn't normal at this stage of the season to juggle the lineup, but I felt it gave us the best chance of winning."

Pearl didn't say definitively who will be at the point Thursday against Louisville, but he's happy with the way Prince and Smith played in the 76-71 overtime win against Butler.

Before Sunday, the only experience Prince had this season at point guard was about three weeks of practice at the beginning.

Prince played like a regular for nearly all of his 31 minutes on the floor, scoring 9 points on 4-of-5 shooting to go with seven rebounds, five assists, and a block.

"J.P. is a stat-sheet stuffer," Pearl said. "I think he makes everyone else out there better."

Smith started for much of the Southeastern Conference season. But Pearl went with Prince because of Smith's lackluster play in recent weeks.

UCLA ailing

UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was set to undergo an MRI on his sprained left ankle and Josh Shipp was recovering from strep throat, putting two of the Bruins' starters at less than full strength for their West Regional semifinal game Thursday against Western Kentucky. Coach Ben Howland said the MRI on Mbah a Moute was being done as a precaution. "We don't anticipate there being any issue," he said. Shipp was given antibiotics for strep throat after Saturday's game, when he was scoreless in 37 minutes but came up with a key block on Texas A&M's final shot to preserve the victory . . . Villanova center Casiem Drummond broke his right ankle in the Wildcats' second-round win over Siena and will miss the rest of the tournament. Drummond, a 6-foot-10-inch center who made nine starts in 21 games, is scheduled to have surgery today.

Beating the odds

Only two people from the more than 3.65 million entries in ESPN.com's bracket contest can brag they correctly picked the final 16 teams. That's a huge drop from last year, when 45 of 3.3 million entries accurately predicted the regional semifinal field. Then again, no seed worse than a No. 7 advanced to the Round of 16 in 2007. This season, there are two No. 12 seeds (Western Kentucky and Villanova) and a No. 10 (Davidson) . . . In second-round NIT games: Jamar Butler scored 20 points and spurred a 17-2 first-half run with three 3-pointers to lead host Ohio State past California, 73-56; and Dayton went on a 17-0 second-half run to break open a close game en route to a 55-48 victory over host Illinois State.

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