This wasn't the way Davidson wanted it to end, but end it did Thursday in Portland, Oregon, where No.4 seed Louisville dispatched No.13 seed Davidson, 69-62, in the Wildcats' first game of the NCAA tournament.
UNC Asheville's game was much better, which was a surprise. No.16 seed UNC Asheville threw a significant scare into No.1 seed Syracuse, even though the margin was also seven points (a 72-65 win for Syracuse) thanks to some late free throws by the Orangemen.
Davidson was undone by its tepid offense -- only Jake Cohen and Clint Mann really did much as the Wildcats (averaging 78 points per game entering the contest) nearly scored a season low in points. I felt particularly sorry for De'Mon Brooks, the Charlotte product and the Southern Conference co-Player of the Year along with Cohen. Brooks looked lost during the game and was nothing like the player who dominated so many times during the season.
The Wildcats scored only 25 points in the first half -- they trailed by eight at half and never really made a serious run in the second half. Davidson was so bad on three-point shooting -- a key part of its offense -- that it got to where I would cringe every time one of them went up by midway through the game. It felt a whole lot different than when Stephen Curry was raining threes in Davidson's last NCAA tournament appearance, in 2008. This time, Davidson could never make threes with any consistency and several Davidson players got to where they were hesitant to even shoot them late.
Louisville had a lot to do with that, of course. Louisville is a strong defensive team -- you don't play for Rick Pitino if you don't play defense. And the Cardinals were far quicker than what Davidson was used to in the SoCon. Davidson had no one who could stay in front of Cardinal guard Peyton Siva (17 points), for instance.
Still, Davidson had its chances. Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng was out for much of the first half after picking up three quick fouls, but except for Cohen, Davidson failed to take advantage often enough of his absence.
By the second half, when Dieng returned, the Louisville lead seemed to constantly stay at around 10-12 points. Davidson's effort wasn't lacking -- and this team should be congratulated for what, all in all, was a very fine season. But its execution was sorely lacking. This looked nothing like the Davidson team that upset Kansas earlier in the season.
Instead, Davidson simply looked overmatched.
6 months ago