RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—The tape kept showing Davidson guard Stephen Curry working off multiple screens before catching the ball in traffic. He’d get just the slightest of daylight, and the ball would be out of his hands in an instant with a near-perfect shooting stroke.
It was stomach-churning viewing for Georgetown coach John Thompson III ahead of Sunday’s matchup with Curry and the Wildcats in the second round of the NCAA’s Midwest Regional.
“Got any suggestions?” Thompson said to a reporter during a news conference Saturday. “Because no one has guarded him yet.”
Even mighty Georgetown, the school with the nation’s stingiest defense, is concerned about little Davidson and its youthful-looking sophomore with the magic shooting touch.
Two days after Curry hit 8 of 10 3-pointers, scored 30 of his 40 points in the second half, and hit the go-ahead 3 with a minute left in an 82-76 win over Gonzaga, the task of trying to find a way to slow perhaps the best shooter in college basketball rests with Georgetown.
“People are dotting the Is and crossing the Ts when it comes to guarding him, and the kid makes tough, contested shots with guys draped all over him,” Thompson said after his film study. “He doesn’t need any time to get it off. Most importantly, his teammates do a terrific job of helping him, in terms of screening and the passing.”
It makes for an intriguing matchup when 10th-seeded Davidson (27-6) puts the nation’s longest winning streak of 23 games on the line against the big, bad Hoyas.
No. 2 seed Georgetown (28-5), a year removed from a run to the Final Four, has a huge height advantage up front with 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert. The Hoyas have an experienced backcourt with Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp. They’re coming off a 66-47 rout of Maryland-Baltimore County on Friday when they showed off a deep bench that includes versatile Patrick Ewing Jr.
With a suffocating halfcourt defense, Georgetown is giving up only 57.6 points per game. Opponents are shooting 37 percent from the field.
But they haven’t faced Curry yet.
The son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry is averaging 25.5 points per game and has made a nation-high 147 3-pointers. His 1,573 points in less than two seasons is more than any other sophomore in the nation.
Curry, shooting 45 percent from 3-point range, almost single-handedly guided the liberal-arts school of 1,700 students to its first NCAA tournament win in 39 years Friday.
It brought the small town 20 miles north of Charlotte to a near complete stop. Players and coaches were adding up their congratulatory text messages, voice mails and e-mails on Saturday.
“I think the record on our team for yesterday was Andrew (Lovedale),” Curry said. “He had about 170-something.”
The springy, 6-8 Lovedale grabbed the offensive rebound that led to Curry’s winning bucket on Friday. Lovedale and 6-8 senior Thomas Sander are the tallest starters, and will be giving up six inches to Hibbert.
“He’s a challenge because we have not faced someone of his size all year long,” coach Bob McKillop said. “I would be foolish not to allude to the fact that our guys have played against (UCLA’s) Kevin Love and (North Carolina’s) Tyler Hansbrough, just to name two of them who are pretty darned good players.”
North Carolina held Hansbrough to 14 points and Love to 12. The Wildcats played both powers tough earlier in the season, only to lose.
But Davidson hasn’t lost since Dec. 21 against North Carolina State, and will have the crowd behind it on Sunday.
Playing about 160 miles from campus, Davidson’s fans will outnumber Georgetown supporters. Plus, North Carolina fans, who will be in the building for the second game pitting the Tar Heels and Arkansas, adopted Davidson on Friday.
Georgetown ended North Carolina’s NCAA tournament run last year, meaning the fans in light blue will likely stick with the underdog Wildcats.
“We like hostile environments,” insisted Hibbert. “I think when people are yelling at us we do better in those situations. It’s another away game for us.”
While Hibbert won’t have to worry about chasing Curry around the perimeter, Sapp and Wallace will. And Curry is what stands in the way of Georgetown’s third consecutive trip to the round of 16.
“We just have to hope that he misses,” Thompson said. “And we haven’t seen too many games where he’s missed.”
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