Duke is coming off its best defensive effort of the season. The Blue Devils may now receive their biggest test on the defensive end of 2008-09 with Stephen Curry and Davidson coming to town.
The second-ranked Blue Devils look to shut down Curry, the nation’s leading scorer, and win their fifth straight when they take on the in-state rival Wildcats at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team clamped down on Virginia Tech in its ACC opener Sunday, winning 69-44 after limiting the Hokies to 13 points in the second half. It was their lowest total in a half since giving up 13 in the opening 20 minutes of a 50-44 win over Clemson on Jan. 23, 1982.
Duke (12-1) held Virginia Tech to 6-for-18 shooting and outrebounded the Hokies 22-10 after the break.
“We want to have that be our staple - we want to bring defense and rebounding to every game,” said forward Kyle Singler, who led the Blue Devils with 19 points. “We know we can rebound the ball and play defense. If we do that, we’ll have a good enough chance to win as many games as we want to.”
Defense and rebounding has been the Blue Devils’ formula for success of late. They’ve held their last three opponents at Cameron to an average of 50.3 points and 36.4 percent shooting, while outrebounding them by 15.0 per game.
Led by Singler (16.5 ppg) and junior Jon Scheyer (13.8), Duke is also one of the nation’s top scoring teams at 82.8 points per game.
Right behind the Blue Devils at 82.3 points a contest is Davidson (10-2), which is led by the explosive Curry.
The junior guard tops the country with 29.2 points per game, continuing his prolific scoring a season after a stunning NCAA tournament performance during which he averaged 32.0 points in four games.
Curry scored 21 points and shot 5-of-6 from 3-point range in Saturday’s 76-55 win over Samford, making him the third player in school history to surpass 2,000 points. He reached the milestone in his 82nd game.
“I think Curry’s the best guard. He may be the best player in the country. He’s sensational,” Krzyzewski said. “His ball handling, not just as a point guard, but when you’re on him, he gets his shot off. If he gets his shot off, it’s got a chance to go in. They do a hell of a job. It’ll be a great game for us.”
Davidson coach Bob McKillop, who moved Curry from shooting guard this season, has used Max Paulhus Gosselin and Brendan McKillop to bring the ball up the floor during the last two games.
“Just so I can conserve a little bit of energy, things like that,” Curry said.
While McKillop has tried to take some of the pressure off his star, Curry will be the focal point versus the Blue Devils. He went 4-of-7 from 3-point range and finished with 20 points in last season’s 79-73 home loss to Duke, the Wildcats’ 21st straight defeat in the series.
Davidson has not defeated Duke since a 75-73 win Dec. 29, 1981 - the Wildcats’ only victory in 31 visits to Cameron. The Blue Devils, who lead the series 86-17, have won 66 straight at home against non-conference opponents since an 83-82 loss to St. John’s on Feb. 26, 2000.
“They’re going to be into it. To go into that kind of atmosphere is something that prepares you for down the road,” Curry said of the Blue Devils’ home crowd. “It’s just a special environment, so we’re going to enjoy it while we’re playing and have fun while we’re up there.”
Curry, a Charlotte native, experienced the raucous nature of Cameron firsthand two seasons ago, when Duke held him to five points in a 75-47 loss.
Davidson’s two defeats this season have come on the road against ranked teams. It has dropped 25 consecutive games against top 5 opponents since a 68-62 win over then-No. 2 South Carolina on Feb. 11, 1970.