Davidson a threat to UCLA
Wooden Classic: The Bruins need to be on their guard against the Wildcats.
By JANIS CARR
The Orange County Register
But a closer look reveals that the No. 7 Bruins could be in for a long afternoon at the Honda Center.
Davidson is a small, mid-major school (enrollment 1,700) located in North Carolina, where they know a thing or two about playing basketball. And the Wildcats are no exception.
Last season, the Wildcats finished 29-5 and reached the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Maryland.
Building on that success, Davidson coach Bob McKillop scheduled games against North Carolina, Duke and N.C. State. The UCLA contest was a late bonus when Davidson was invited to join the Wooden Classic field that also includes San Diego State playing St. Mary's at the Honda Center.
Some might have thought McKillop had lost his mind. Turns out, he knew was he was doing.
So far this season, Davidson has pushed No. 1 North Carolina to the brink, losing by just four points in the Wildcats' third game. Two weeks later, they played then-No. 7 Duke and gave another perennial college a challenge before falling, 79-73.
"I felt if we had had more of those kinds of games last year, (it) might have helped us in the (NCAA) tournament," McKillop said. "This will serve us well in preparation for March."
UCLA coach Ben Howland has seen enough film on Davidson to know his team is in for the same kind of potential trouble the other top-ranked teams encountered. Howland said the Wildcats (3-4) run a similar kind of offense to Texas, and the Longhorns handed the Bruins (7-1) their first loss last Sunday.
"We have to be much better than Sunday at taking shots," Howland said. "They are an unselfish team, with team players who share the ball."
Howland also said that the Wildcats are so quick that "before you get to the screen, they slash and go to the basket. They have all sorts of wrinkles they put in.
Davidson has something Texas didn't though, and that's a prolific shooter in 6-foot-1 guard Stephen Curry. Curry, who is on nearly every preseason watch list, ranks fifth nationally in scoring (26 points a game). He also is averaging 4.5 3-pointers and 4.4 rebounds.
"He reminds me of (former Arizona point guard) Salim Stoudamire," Howland said. "What makes him tough is that he doesn't always follow through on his shot. He has such a quick release it's incredible. His release is as quick as anything you'll see throughout the country.
"He's also a good ball handler who can put the ball on the floor. He can penetrate and make plays for himself and makes plays for others. He's their back-up guard when (Jason) Richards isn't in there. He creates a lot of problems."
UCLA has its own set of problems, one of them being feeding the ball to center Kevin Love. Love only attempted six shots against Texas because he often times kicked the ball out to a teammate. He also was on the bench for defensive reasons during crunch time in favor of Lorenzo Mata-Real.
Howland said the team focused on its inside game this week at practice.
"We did a good job in getting him the ball," Howland said. "He is unselfish to a fault. Pretty soon I'm going to have to tell him he can't pass up a shot. He loves to pass … I love to see a player who loves to pass and make plays for others. That's the thing he enjoys most."
So does coaching legend John Wooden, who compared Love favorably to former UCLA center Bill Walton.
"I haven't seen a player since Walton, who can rebound and turn with his hands up and pass the ball three-quarters the length of the floor. You have to have strength to make that particular pass and accuracy."