Operation stop Steph

Gerry Ahern
Yahoo! Sports

DETROIT – After listening to the line of questioning Saturday, you might have thought that top-seeded Kansas was playing Stephen Curry, not Davidson, in the NCAA Midwest Regional final Sunday.

Given the fact that the Wildcats' sophomore shooting sensation outscored Wisconsin 22-20 in the second half of a victory a night earlier, that might not be such a strange notion.

The Jayhawks players and coach spent a lot of time discussing how they will try to slow Curry, who is averaging a stunning 34.3 points per tournament game in leading the No. 10 seed to upsets over Gonzaga, Georgetown and the Badgers.

No one Kansas player will be charged with guarding Curry. Brandon Rush, Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers will take turns trying to quell the tempest.

"We can't change who we are in a 30-minute practice today," Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. "The way we've defended, for the most part, all year long has been pretty effective. We'll still play to our principles.

"The biggest thing is, whoever's guarding Curry at the time, and I'm sure we'll switch defenders, has to be locked in because you can't relax. As soon as you relax, he makes you pay."

Robinson talked about how he and his team will prepare to stop the guy who thus far has been unstoppable.

"Half of it is instincts, half of it's the scouting report," Robinson said. "The main thing is to adjust to how the refs are calling the game. A guy like Stephen Curry is going to get his shots off. You have to make sure he's working every possession and don't give him anything easy."

Curry has made things difficult on opponents with his lightning-fast release and silky stroke. Self said you don't have to search far to figure out what makes him so good. Curry's dad Dell was a standout in the NBA for 16 seasons, scoring 12,670 points.

"There's not a lot of guys out there playing who have somebody who eats at the same dinner table every night who's been one of the greatest shooters in NBA history." Self said. "There's some things you can teach, but it's hard to teach feel, and he's got feel."

Robinson noted that Curry benefits from the fact he has carte blanche to launch shots as he sees fit, and that the screens set by his teammates are strong.

"Coach gives him the green light to knock down shots," Robinson said. "His teammates are behind him. Once you get those two things down pat, anybody can knock it down."

But few in NCAA tournament history have filled the hoop at the rate of Curry. He has 103 points in three tourney games, 77 in second halves alone. He has made good on 19 of 36 three-point tries (52.8 percent) in the tournament. Overall, he is shooting 51.2 percent in the Big Dance and 48.8 percent on the season.

To shut Curry down, first you have to contain Davidson's quarterback, senior point guard Jason Richards. Arthur likened it to "cutting off the head." Robinson understands the theory.

"(Richards) runs the team," Robinson said. "He gets a lot of assists. So you take him out, then half the job on Curry is done."

The Kansas backcourt players will need some help from the bigs to knock Curry off course. The play of Darnell Jackson and Darrell Arthur will be a key.

"Our role is real big in this game because Curry runs off a lot of screens and staggers," Jackson said. "We have to make sure we have a lot of contact so he doesn't get easy baskets."

Arthur said he will be ready.

"We have to make sure we try to keep him out of the paint, keep him from getting good looks," Arthur said. "We'll just try to contest his threes when he's out there."

Kansas has faced players in the Big 12 who can single-handedly alter a game. Robinson and Chalmers likened Curry to Texas' D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams.

The Jayhawks held Augustin to 1 of 13 shooting and 10 points in their lone regular-season game against the Longhorns. But Abrams pitched in 14 points and Texas prevailed 72-69.

The Longhorns turned to other sources and got a surprising eight three-pointers in that game. Davidson too has players besides Curry who can bury it from beyond the arc and elsewhere. The Wildcats have made 29 threes and are shooting 45.5 percent from the field.

"They got Richards and (Thomas) Sander and all the other post guys that come off the bench," Jackson said. "They can come out there and hurt us. But as long as we move our feet and block out and rebound, everything will be fine."

In the Big 12 title game, KU beat the 'Horns 84-74 despite 20 points from Augustin and 15 from Abrams. The difference was Chalmers, who poured in 30 points and eight three-pointers.

To solve Curry and Davidson, the Jayhawks might need that kind of performance on Sunday.

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