This Day in March Madness History
March 21, 2008
Gonzaga vs. Davidson
- The Setup
Gonzaga entered as the 7-seed in this opening round contest of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs were mired in their worst two-year stretch under head coach Mark Few, as they had combined for 19 regular season losses in 2007 and 2008. They were also searching for some postseason success, as they had failed to escape the opening weekend of March Madness in five of the past six seasons, after qualifying for the Sweet 16 in Few’s first two seasons.
Davidson, meanwhile, was the 10-seed, making their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance, but they were seeking their first win since 1969, when they made a run to the Elite Eight. Expectations for both teams were not particularly high, and the winner was expected to essentially be a sacrificial lamb for second-seeded Georgetown in the Round of 32.
- How it went down
The short way of recapping this game is to simply say it was Stephen Curry’s coming-out party. The future NBA MVP was a little-known, baby-faced sophomore for the low-profile Davidson squad. After just ten points in the first half, Curry exploded for thirty more in the final 20 minutes, connecting on 8 of 10 three-pointers.
Gonzaga got off to a sizzling start, not missing a shot for the first four minutes, at which point they had carved out a 10-4 lead. Behind a trio of threes from Steven Gray, Gonzaga maintained their advantage for the first 6:29 of game-time, before Curry buried his first triple to tie the score at 15-15. Gonzaga broke off a 13-2 run to put themselves back in control, but Davidson continued to crawl back. Jason Richards was the star of the first half, scoring 14 points, including 10 of Davidson’s final 12 points of the half, keeping the Wildcats within striking distance at 41-36.
Curry made his intentions known early in the second half, drilling a pair of threes on Davidson’s first two trips down the court, but Gonzaga matched him both times. After the Bulldogs took a 56-45 lead, Curry personally outscored Gonzaga 9-2 over the next two and a half minutes, before Andrew Lovedale added a point from the free throw line to close the gap to 58-55. Two minutes later, Curry nailed a jumper and a three within 29 seconds to bring Davidson even at 62-62, with 9:47 to play. A tug-of-war battle ensued, as neither team could seize control. With 1:04 remaining and the score tied at 74 points apiece, Curry took a pass from Lovedale and knocked down yet another three, giving the Wildcats the lead for good. Gonzaga only got two more points, and Davidson casually sank five free throws – three from Curry – to ice the 82-76 win.
- The Aftermath
For Davidson, Gonzaga was just their first victim. After not seeing March Madness success for nearly 40 years, the Wildcats were ready for a run. Down 17 points in the second half to Georgetown, Davidson rallies to beat the Hoyas, with Curry dropping 30 points. The sophomore guard puts on another show in the Sweet 16, putting 33 up on Wisconsin and their nation-leading defense. Their run was halted by the eventual national champion Kansas Jayhawks, who edged out Davidson 59-57 in an Elite Eight nailbiter.
Gonzaga made the Sweet Sixteen in 2009, but they quickly dropped back into a funk, slipping into a five-year drought of opening-weekend exits. They reversed that trend in 2015, as they have reached at least the Sweet 16 in five consecutive tournaments.
- NBA Notables
Davidson – Stephen Curry (Warriors)
Gonzaga – Robert Sacre (Lakers)