Davidson College

Davidson College, davidson, davidson university, stephen curry, davidson wildcats, davidson basketball

The large Wildcat statue that greets visitors to the Davidson College athletic complex had its mouth already full Sunday afternoon with a stuffed-toy Wisconsin Badger and what looked to be the remnants of a couple of toy Bulldogs, representing Gonzaga and Georgetown.

Although no Kansas Jayhawk was added, the pride that this 1,700-student campus and its surrounding community feel for its team's near miss in the NCAA tournament probably will live on.

The student union building, where hundreds of students, alumni, staff and community members gathered to watch Sunday's game on big-screen televisions, was decorated with red and black balloons and stars and often sounded about as loud as Ford Field in Detroit. It was part celebration, part March Madness block party.

Within seconds of the final buzzer that sealed the end of their amazing run with a 59-57 loss to Kansas, one last ovation rang out.

"It was magical; it was great," said golf team member Ryan Crum of South Salem, N.Y. "It brought us recognition, nationwide, which is great for us."

Although Krista Timeus, an international student from Guatemala, said she was "a little bit disappointed" with Sunday's outcome, the memories will live on.

"It was incredibly inspirational for everybody that we got so far for being such a small school," she said. "And it was so beautiful to see the whole community come together and cheer for those guys."

Buildings and houses around campus were decorated with Davidson flags and homemade signs.

Practically every fan in attendance was wearing bright red Davidson T-shirts or black shirts with red trim. A few of the youngest ones had their faces painted with red and black Wildcats whiskers.

About 15 minutes before tip-off, the strains of Neil Diamond's old hit, Sweet Caroline, the team's theme song, were pumped through the sound system. Fans sang along, then began a rhythmic, "Let's Go Wildcats" chant.

They sang it again when the game ended.

At 3 a.m. ET Sunday, five buses carrying about 200 students left Davidson's campus for a 12-hour drive to Detroit and the 5:05 p.m. ET tip-off. That's in addition to the six buses that brought hundreds of students to Friday's semifinal.

School President Tom Ross estimated 40% to 50% of Davidson's students were at Sunday's game. The school's board of trustees footed the bill for transportation, hotel rooms and tickets. "The buses alone cost between $4,500 and $5,000 each," Ross said. "We don't have all the bills yet. It's not going to be insignificant."

Those left behind rooted just as hard as those who made the trek to the Motor City.

"We could have sent just about everybody; we couldn't get enough buses," said James Nash, who was coordinating activities at the student union. "We would never let family members go someplace without the rest of us going."

The family atmosphere engendered by the cozy campus, about 25 miles north of Charlotte, has been part of the feel-good story authored by the team.

"Being here, I really didn't feel like I was missing out on that much," said Ben Van Dyke, a student from Greenville, S.C.

"The way Davidson is the rest of the time is what makes this kind of thing possible. Whether people go here or not, the community adopts this place as part of the culture."