Stephen Curry rebounded from the strangest game of his collegiate career with one of his best, tying his career high for points in a win over one of the nation’s stingiest teams.
Bob Huggins is hoping his defensive-minded club has better luck containing the nation’s top scorer.
Curry could have his hands full on Tuesday, as the junior guard leads No. 23 Davidson into Madison Square Garden to take on Huggins and West Virginia in the Jimmy V Classic
Curry scored 35.0 points per game in the first five contests of this season before a bizarre move by Loyola (Md.) coach Jimmy Patsos. He chose to double-team Curry away from the basket, holding the Davidson star scoreless. The Wildcats (6-1) won the game 78-48 anyway.
North Carolina State chose to play him conventionally on Saturday in Charlotte, and while the Wolfpack stayed close, Curry eventually made the difference. He tied his career high with 44 points, including the Wildcats’ final 10 in a 72-67 win.
“He’s not just a shooter. He’s a basketball player,” N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe said. “That makes it tough when you have someone who can shoot the ball the way he does. But at the same time, if you try to take things away from him, he’s clever enough and smart enough to go to something else.”
N.C. State entered Saturday’s game 10th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 53.8 points per game. Davidson’s task won’t get any easier on Tuesday, as the Mountaineers entered the week 13th in the nation defensively, yielding 55.1 ppg.
West Virginia (6-1) held its second opponent this season under 35 percent shooting in its latest game, but it took a second-half comeback for Huggins’ team to earn a victory. The Mountaineers outscored Cleveland State 32-18 in the final 20 minutes on Saturday in Morgantown to rally for a 53-43 win.
Huggins wasn’t particularly pleased with the team’s offensive effort.
“We weren’t assertive enough,” Huggins said. “We’re still not there, and we got a long ways to go at both ends of the floor. I still think we’re still going to be a good team, but we got a ways to go.”
Junior forward Da’Sean Butler led West Virginia with 18 points, and continues to be the Mountaineers’ most consistent offensive player. He’s averaging team highs of 14.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 steals.
Butler and freshman forward Devin Ebanks, who had 17 rebounds against Cleveland State, will likely draw the assignment of guarding Davidson forward Andrew Lovedale. The 6-foot-8 senior is the Wildcats’ second-leading scorer (14.4 ppg) after Curry, and he’s averaging 16.3 points and 12.3 rebounds in his last four games.
Guard Alex Ruoff, meanwhile, could be the defender primarily in charge of containing Curry. Ruoff, who averages 14.3 points, is significantly improved defensively as a senior, according to Huggins.
“If we tried to put Alex on (point guards) a year ago, it would have been a layup line,” Huggins said. “He works hard now and he’s moving his feet.”
The top defender for Davidson, meanwhile, will have to sit out. Starting guard Max Paulhus Gosselin, who averages 2.0 steals and often guards the opposing team’s best perimeter player, was suspended for this game due to a Southern Conference policy on ejections. Paulhus Gosselin was tossed in the first half of Saturday’s game for a flagrant foul.
West Virginia, which was a member of the Southern Conference from 1950-68, is 18-15 all-time against Davidson. The schools haven’t met since an 85-69 Mountaineers win in the first round of the 1994 NIT.