Stephen Curry’s 40 points lead Davidson past Gonzaga 82-76
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Davidson fans used to have to go back 40 years to the Lefty Driesell era to tell stories of NCAA tournament success. Now they’ve got to look no further than their baby-faced sophomore star.
Stephen Curry, the guard the big schools didn’t want, put Driesell’s powerful Davidson teams of the 1960s in the background with a remarkable performance that made the tiny liberal arts school a postseason player again.
The son of former NBA 3-point specialist Dell Curry hit 8 of 10 3-pointers, scored 30 of his 40 points in the second half and hit the tie-breaking 3 with a minute left to lead the Wildcats to an 82-76 win over bewildered Gonzaga on Friday.
“It was like an opening night, a star performance on Broadway,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “And he was the star, but he had a great cast with him. The audience was sensational. A lot of music, great songs, lots of dancing.”
Displaying his lightning-quick release, Curry ran off multiple screens all day and swished one off-balance jumper after another, making 14 of 22 shots.
His two free throws with 14.5 seconds left iced it for the 10th-seeded Wildcats (27-6), who won their first NCAA game since Driesell took the school of 1,700 students to a regional final in 1969 before leaving for Maryland.
“I take every game the same way. I approach it the same way, so this is nothing different for me,” Curry said. “I warm up the same way, I shoot the ball the same way. I don’t want to get caught up in the atmosphere.”
Curry wanted to play for his father’s alma mater, Virginia Tech, but the big schools shied away because of his size.
Well, Curry has grown four inches to 6-foot-3 since signing with Davidson, and now has put the Wildcats into the second round of the Midwest Regional against No. 2 seed Georgetown on Sunday.
“It puts Davidson on the map again,” Dell Curry said. “Bob McKillop has put him on a stage to be successful, and I don’t think any other school could have done that.”
Jason Richards added 15 points and nine assists for Davidson, which extended the nation’s longest winning streak to 23 games. Andrew Lovedale had 12 points and one of his 13 rebounds came on the offensive glass, which led to Curry’s deciding 3-pointer.
Freshman Steven Gray hit seven 3s and scored 21 points for No. 7 seed Gonzaga (25-8), which blew 11-point leads in both halves to make a first-round exit for the second straight year.
Gray was worn down by the end of the game after trying to chase down Curry. The Zags also tried a triangle-and-2 defense and even played some zone at the end.
“Personally, I don’t know if I’ve ever run off that many screens trying to defend someone,” Gray said. “And he knows how to use them. He’s very knowledgeable in that way.”
Curry, who finished one point shy of his career high, won over the crowd with a day that even included a left-handed bank shot. About the only fan not standing during Davidson’s comeback was his father.
Dell Curry watched quietly from the front row, while his wife and most of the neutral fans cheered as Davidson took its first lead on Stephen Rossiter’s putback with 8:27 left.
It set up a frantic finish, with Davidson taking a 73-72 lead on Max Paulhus Gosselin’s 3-pointer with 4:11 to go. But after Lovedale’s free throw, Gonzaga tied it on Jeremy Pargo’s driving layup 1:45 left.
Lovedale, who had his first career double-double, then tracked down a Davidson miss, setting up Curry’s 3 from the right wing.
“A lot of his points come off plays like this,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. “It was an offensive rebound or a scramble and he toes up on the line. They’re trained to find him in the scramble situation.”
Pargo added 18 points and Gonzaga shot 51 percent, but wilted down the stretch in its second straight loss. Austin Daye was 3-for-13 and missed a 3-pointer after Curry put Davidson ahead.
It left Charlotte Bobcats forward Adam Morrison, the symbol of Gonzaga’s recent NCAA tournament success, shaking his head behind the bench. And he could only watch as Davidson, playing only 160 miles from campus, celebrated with flare.
Seconds after the final buzzer, Curry and Richards did consecutive chest bumps before meeting their teammates at midcourt. Finally Davidson was able to smile after close losses to Ohio State and Maryland in the first round the past two years.
“He’s done it all year for us,” said Richards, who leads the nation in assists largely because of Curry. “This game, he showed the whole nation what he’s capable of.”