DURHAM, N.C. - Stephen Curry started creating shots, and not coincidentally, they started to fall. Just that quickly, Davidson was on its way back from a big deficit — and it was starting to feel like last March again.
But the Wildcats had too far to come, especially against No. 2 Duke.
“We still had a 10-point lead. ... These teams are going to make runs like that on us,” guard Jon Scheyer said. “And whenever that happens, when it gets tight or close like that, we’ve got to take shots aggressively and with a lot of confidence.”
Scheyer and Kyle Singler both scored 22 points, and Duke held off a late Curry-led charge to beat Davidson 79-67 on Wednesday night.
Gerald Henderson added 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting for the Blue Devils (13-1). They never trailed, outscored the Wildcats 20-7 to start the second half and won their 67th straight nonconference home game by withstanding a furious comeback attempt that for a while seemed destined to add to Curry’s legend.
“All was good in Krzyzewskiville. And then, all of a sudden, the clouds came,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “The story’s going to end bad. But you don’t win every round against good teams. They’re going to make you look bad, stop you, or you’re going to stop them and we stopped them a little bit more than they stopped us.”
Curry, the nation’s leading scorer, scored 29 points — the most Duke has allowed any player this season — on 10-of-22 shooting but was just 1-for-8 from 3-point range and turned it over six times for Davidson (10-3).
He scored 21 points in the second half as he tried to rally his team from a 25-point deficit, including seven in a 90-second span that came during a 14-2 spurt midway through the half to help the Wildcats close within 13.
“After they made that big run in the second half and got up 20-plus, we didn’t panic,” Curry said. “We’ve been in that situation before — kind of too often now — and we just got back to hittin’ singles, as coach would say, and making the easy play.”
Davidson then pulled to 69-61 on Andrew Lovedale’s basket in the post with 3:53 left, but couldn’t get any closer. Lance Thomas hit two critical free throws and Scheyer scored six points in the final 2 minutes — including the 1,000th of his career — to help Duke pull away late.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years against Duke,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “They expose you. They undress you. And unless you stay in the center ring and fight from the center of the ring, instead of backpedaling and getting caught on the ropes, you’re never going to be successful against Duke.”
Duke thought it had taken control with an impressive burst to begin the second half, which included eight points from Henderson and two 3s by Scheyer. But the Blue Devils hung on long enough to drop Davidson to 3-34 against top-five teams while winning their 22nd straight in the series.
They haven’t lost to the Wildcats since Krzyzewski’s second season at Duke in 1981 — the last time a non-Atlantic Coast Conference team from the state beat them at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
They were playing as the nation’s No. 2 team for the first time since up-and-coming Wake Forest upset them last February, and started strong against Curry before the darling of last season’s NCAA tournament found ways to create shots against the ACC’s stingiest defense — much like he did during the Wildcats’ run to regional finals.
“I’m not knocking the Southern Conference, but we’re the last big program (Davidson plays) until they go to the NCAAs — this is like a March game for them,” Krzyzewski said. “We have to match that. I thought they approached it like that — they knocked us back. ... And then all of a sudden, we started playing tougher.”
The Blue Devils defended the Davidson star by running either their point guards (Nolan Smith or Greg Paulus) or one of their longer players (Singler or Lance Thomas) at him. Those combinations kept Curry scoreless until the 6-minute mark of the first half, and he missed his first four attempts.
“The crazy part is ... we knew that was probably some of the best defense we could have played on him, and the score was still close,” Thomas said. “So we knew we were in for a game.”
Thomas was right. Curry regrouped in the second half and making 6 of his 13 shots. In the process, he moved into second place on the school’s career scoring list with 2,040 points — eight more than Fred Hetzel.
Lovedale finished with 15 points and Steve Rossiter added 10 rebounds for Davidson, which fell to 0-3 this season against ranked teams yet put forth a significantly more impressive showing than it did in last month’s 76-58 loss at Purdue, which held Curry to 5-for-26 shooting.
“Some of the slapping that (Purdue) did to us — they took us into the alley and slapped us, and that lingered tonight,” McKillop said. “Those very unpleasant memories surfaced tonight in the early stages of the first half, early stages of the second half. Great teams don’t allow that to linger. But this is a team that’s going through a process of getting better.”
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
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