Davidson already has something it didn’t have during the 2007-08 regular season - a victory over a notable non-conference opponent.
Now the 22nd-ranked Wildcats have a chance at something more rare and important on Saturday - a regular-season win over a ranked team as they play No. 13 Purdue in the Wooden Tradition at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Last season, Davidson (8-1) played an ambitious non-conference schedule that was highlighted with respectable losses to ranked teams North Carolina, Duke and UCLA - all in the top seven at the time - as well as a one-point defeat at North Carolina State. That put additional pressure on the Wildcats to win the automatic NCAA tournament bid from the Southern Conference, which they did en route to a regional final appearance - beating three ranked teams in the process - before losing to eventual champion Kansas.
Despite not sneaking up on anyone this season, Davidson has shown little falloff from its 29-win season in 2007-08, with star guard Stephen Curry averaging an NCAA-leading 31.9 points. Its lone loss was a four-point defeat at then-No. 12 Oklahoma, and the Wildcats already have victories over major-conference schools N.C. State and West Virginia on neutral courts as Curry has given the team national appeal.
But they have lost 52 straight regular-season games against ranked teams since a 70-59 victory over then-No. 15 South Carolina on Jan. 12, 1974. With a game at No. 6 Duke looming on Jan. 7, this may be Davidson’s best chance to end this skid.
Curry and his teammates, though, may have been looking ahead to this game last Saturday, when they had to rally past Chattanooga 100-95 in the Wildcats’ conference opener. Curry had 41 points for his third 40-point game this season and fifth overall as Davidson overcame a 10-point first-half deficit.
“It’s a great lesson for our guys,” Wildcats coach Bob McKillop said. “Every game in the Southern Conference, as always, is going to be a battle. No matter what our rankings are, no matter who we’ve beaten, historically Southern Conference games are battles for us. … They always have been and will always be.”
Curry has averaged 37.3 points in three games since Loyola of Maryland held him scoreless by double-teaming him at all times on Nov. 25. The junior guard, who is 52 points shy of 2,000, is also averaging 6.8 assists and shooting 38.7 percent from 3-point range.
The Boilermakers (5-2) likely will start E’Twaun Moore defensively on the 6-foot-3 Curry, but also have the luxury of rotating fellow guards Keaton Grant, Marcus Green and Chris Kramer on him. Purdue has won three straight games since consecutive losses in New York in the NIT Season Tip-Off, and has been idle since a 76-62 victory over Indiana State last Saturday.
Big Ten preseason player of the year Robbie Hummel scored 20 of his career-high 25 points in the second half as the Boilermakers shook off a sluggish opening 20 minutes to pull away.
“It seemed like we were a little antsy to shoot the ball,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We were just pressing at times. Rob does a very good job of stabilizing us.”
Moore, who is second on the team at 14.3 points per game, had a streak of 14 straight games in double figures end as he was held to eight points on 2-of-10 shooting. The sophomore guard has averaged just 10.8 points in his last four games since scoring a season-high 22 in a loss to then-No. 11 Oklahoma on Nov. 28.
Purdue is 3-4 in the Wooden Tradition, named after the legendary UCLA coach who was a three-time All-America selection as a player with the Boilermakers and a member of their 1932 national title team.
This is the first meeting between the schools.
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