Ticket punched: Davidson outlasts Western Carolina in double OT

Jeff Eisenberg

As he watched the second half of the Southern Conference title game on the bus ride from the Verizon Center to the airport Monday night, ex-Davidson star Stephen Curry showed more anxiety than he ever did as a player.

"Biting my nails right now," he tweeted.

Curry probably gnawed his nails to the nub by the time top-seeded Davidson escaped with a 93-91 double OT victory over Western Carolina.

The Wildcats wasted a 13-point lead in the final 2:47 of regulation and had the potential game-winning shot rim out at the end of the first overtime. Even after Clint Mann's go-ahead baseline dunk with 1:04 to go in double overtime, Davidson had to survive an errant three-point attempt from Keaton Cole with three seconds to go before celebrating its first NCAA tournament bid since Curry's famed 2008 team.

If that team came within one three-pointer of the Final Four on the strength of Curry's bombs-away shooting and the efforts of a excellent supporting cast, then this season's Davidson team is far more balanced.

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Five Wildcats average at least 10 points per game, all of whom are either sophomores or juniors. They power a three-point offense that is consistently efficient enough that Davidson finished 25-7 overall and 16-2 in conference play despite a suspect defense that forces among the fewest turnovers in the nation.

Based on Monday night's game, one of the other areas Davidson can improve is its ability to close out games.

It took a hail of turnovers, missed free throws and silly fouls from Davidson for Western Carolina to even force overtime. When Davidson's Nik Cochran fouled Cole with 13 seconds to go in regulation, he made all of them to tie the score at 76, giving new life to a Western Carolina team that  went 8-10 in conference play but entered Monday's title game on a seven-game win streak.

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Western Carolina actually had a chance to go ahead in the final 30 seconds of the first overtime when Harouna Mutombo, nephew of former NBA center Dikembe Mutombo, stole an inbound and fed Cole for a contested layup attempt. Cole missed the shot, keeping the score tied and drawing an exaggerated hands-on-his-head groan from Dikembe, who was sitting in the stands behind the Western Carolina bench for the game.

Who could blame Dikembe for the over-the-top reaction to such a tense moment? Just like, who could blame Curry for his nerves watching from the bus?

In an all-or-nothing double overtime classic where the winner went to the NCAA tournament and the loser had no shot, their reactions told the story of a game neither side will soon forget.

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