RALEIGH, N.C. – Time was ticking away on the Davidson Wildcats and their rapid rise to college basketball relevance.
Down 11 points at the half and being stymied by Georgetown's suffocating defense, the shots were clanking, even for sophomore star Stephen Curry. Making good on just 8 of 30 attempts from the field as a team, 2 of 8 by Curry, they were in deep trouble. As off as their efforts were, the Hoyas' were true, Georgetown firing at a 66.7 percent clip from the field and converting 5 of 7 from three-point distance.
The team that seemingly could do no wrong in its NCAA tournament-opening upset of Gonzaga couldn't find the hoop and couldn't stop GU. It looked like the 2½-hour trip back to the Charlotte area was going to be a long and disappointing ride.
Instead, Davidson changed the course of the day and the tournament.
A stunning second-half turnaround ensued on Easter Sunday, fueled by Curry and a defensive adjustment, giving the 10th-seeded Wildcats a 74-70 upset of No. 2 seed Georgetown. The win put Davidson into the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1969 and served as affirmation that coach Bob McKillop's program has arrived.
"One of the most special moments I've ever had in sport," McKillop said.
The legend of Curry and his leather-tough teammates now has the nation's full attention. Davidson has won an NCAA-best 24 consecutive games heading into a Midwest Regional semifinal matchup with No. 3 seed Wisconsin on Friday in Detroit. Curry erupted for 25 second-half points, finishing with 30. That gives him 55 points in the second halves of two tournament games.
"In the second half, I got some great screens from our big guys, and Jason (Richards) found me in open spots," Curry said. "I just had a lot of confidence to shoot it."
That confidence and a whole lot of talent has resulted in Curry's 35-point NCAA tournament scoring average.
The Wildcats, who trailed by 17 points with 17:20 remaining, shot a sizzling 51.9 percent in the second half as Curry and Co. found their form. Richards, the senior point guard who kept Georgetown from pulling further away in the first half, finished with 20 points and five assists.
"I remember being in the huddle when we were down 17," Richards said. "Coach asked us if we were having fun and got us smiling a little bit and got our focus off where we were.
"We came out and got some great stops, and this kid (Curry) started getting on fire. When he does that, it's tough to stop him."
Davidson stopped the Hoyas after a defensive alteration at halftime.
"Matt Matheny, one of our assistant coaches, adjusted our full-court pressure," McKillop said. "We have a very subtle full-court pressure. The very slight adjustment that Matt recommended, suggested and explained got Georgetown out of their rhythm."
Andrew Lovedale (11 points, five rebounds) and Thomas Sander (eight points, six boards) played key roles in frustrating the Hoyas' frontcourt players and getting them into foul trouble. Seven-foot-2 Roy Hibbert (six points, one rebound) fouled out with 16 seconds left.
Curry gave Davidson its first lead since the game's first five minutes, 60-58, with 4:39 left, driving to the basket, drawing a foul and converting the three-point play. Bonkers. Bananas. Pick your B-word, the RBC Center was buzzing.
When Curry nailed a three-pointer to make it 65-60 with 2:55 remaining, prompting a Georgetown timeout, you couldn't hear yourself think.
Georgetown got back within 69-67 with 24 seconds left on a thunderous dunk by DaJuan Summers.
But Curry was fouled with 23.6 seconds left and knocked down two free throws. He converted two more shots from the line seven seconds later to make it 73-67. Summers hit a three-pointer with 11.3 seconds left to make it a one-possession game.
Curry toed the line again two seconds later, missing the first shot but making the second.
Jessie Sapp's three-point attempt was off the mark. Lovedale hauled in the rebound and passed to Max Paulhus Gosselin. Paulhus Gosselin hurled the ball high into the stands as the clock expired and the Davidson band struck up "Sweet Caroline."
"When we heard the whole stadium singing 'Sweet Caroline,' that's kind of our theme song," Richards said. "Hearing all the Davidson fans and people who are not Davidson fans cheering for us, it was definitely a lot of fun out there."
At midcourt, players hugged, shouted, pointed and waved to the squealing crowd. Cheerleaders were screaming and embracing. Somewhere, Lefty Driesell was smiling.
"Sweet 16 Caroline."