This Day in March Madness History: Steph Curry introduces himself

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)

March Takeover Feature: Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Kemba Walker with the UConn Huskies. Christian Laettner with the ’92 Duke Blue Devils. Steph Curry with Davidson in 2008. Throughout the history of March Madness, there have been a handful of players who have taken the college basketball world by storm in the NCAA tournament, putting their team on their back and carrying them to a deep tournament run. And, with the NCAA tournament just over a month away, we’ve started our “March Takeover” features, as we profile players who could potentially dominate the tournament come March.

On January 5th, 2020, Michigan State senior guard Cassisus Winston served the rest of the basketball world a notice in a big way. Winston was coming off three consecutive games of 21 points with 50% shooting from the field, but he was not supposed to continue that production against Michigan and their elite defense. But Winston has faced his doubts throughout his whole collegiate career. Considered far too undersized, Winston was a fairly lightly recruited prospect, with only a few major school showing considerable interest. Michigan was the last school Winston visited, the school didn’t appeal to him, as he committed to the Spartans later that day. 

In four years, Winston has continued to prove the doubters wrong, shooting at least 42% in all four seasons, as well as at least 38% from long range. With a dozen or so games left in the season – depending on how far the Spartans dance for – Winston is within range of becoming the first ever college basketball player to record 2,000 points and 1,000 assists for his career. After falling short in the Final Four last year, Winston entered the senior year with a singular goal, however, and, after some early struggles, the Spartans are heating up, as they eye a dream finish to their 2019-2020 campaign.

After being dismissed from the national picture after a series of tough losses to start the year, Winston and the Spartans crawled their way back into the picture, working their way into the Top 20 ahead of their showdown with then #12 Michigan. And there, as if he hadn’t done enough to showcase his abilities, Cassius Winston took Michigan and the rest of the country by storm with an elite performance, dropping 32 seemingly effortless points on the Wolverines, and that was with him only attempting one field goal in the final five minutes, when the game was long salted away. 

Winston tacked on 9 assists, all while shooting 58% from the field as the Spartans throttled the Wolverines 87-69. His performance in that game earned one our selections as a potential “March Takeover” player. Winston showcased his ability to put the Spartans on his back, and his three-point shooting ability is reminiscent of players that have simply dominated the NCAA tournament with their ability to shoot their team to victory. 

Michigan State may live and die by Cassius Winston – but if you’re going to live and die by a player, he’s a pretty good option to be stuck with.