Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Kevin Cary: Above the Rim blog

Go to school against Davidson

Davidson has won 22 of its past 23 games, and 10 straight Southern Conference games. Those 10 wins have come by an average of 18 points. Yet, these Wildcats aren’t invincible entering the conference tournament. Appalachian State showed that in an 81-74 January victory. Davidson’s conference opponents can learn from that game, which showed how to slow the Wildcats.

1. Play Davidson point guard Jason Richards physical. Richards is the Davidson engine, but the Mountaineers found ways to nudge him off-track. He never had clear lanes, and that helped force him in to nine turnovers. Furman applied the same tactic Thursday, and Richards shot 1 for 9. An added bonus for opponents would be getting Richards in foul trouble. When he’s out of the game, the offense bogs down.

2. Shadow Stephen Curry. Appalachian State held Curry to 1-of-11 on 3-pointers by keeping him a few feet out of his comfort zones. Furman also did it Thursday, and the Davidson freshman only had seven points during the first half. Defenders can’t stray from Curry even when he’s 30 feet from the basket. It would help to have a stopper who isn’t concerned with offense, because guarding the Davidson guard is a full-time job.

3. Make your outside shots. Appalachian State made 47 percent of its 3-point attempts against the Wildcats, and Wofford, which lost twice to Davidson by a combined 12 points, also found success from outside. The Terriers made at least 42 percent of their 3-point attempts in both games.

4. Have a quick point guard. That’s the one position that gives Davidson trouble. The Wildcats tried three players to stop Appalachian State’s D.J. Thompson, but none slowed him. Wofford’s Shane Nichols also sliced through Davidson’s defense, averaging 21 points in the two games, and the Wildcats could see him again in the quarterfinals.

5. Get ahead, and stay ahead. Appalachian State maintained a lead throughout most of its game with Davidson, and that’s critical. One of the best attributes the Wildcats have is their ability to take care of the ball and make free throws. Davidson has not lost a game all season that it led in the final three minutes. One thing that will help opponents: if the Wildcats trail at any point this weekend, fans throughout the North Charleston Coliseum will pull against them since they are the tournament favorite.

– Kevin Cary

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