Sunday, March 23, 2008

Washington Post: Davidson/Georgetown

Hoyas Are Charged With Putting Out Curry's Fire
By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 23, 2008

RALEIGH, N.C., March 22 -- There is a part of Chris Wright that admires what Davidson sophomore Stephen Curry did against Gonzaga in a Midwest Region first-round game on Friday: A 6-foot-2 guard, Curry scored 40 points and essentially carried his 10th-seeded team to its first NCAA tournament victory since 1969.

Wright, a freshman guard at Georgetown, was as prolific a scorer in high school as Curry has been in college, so he can appreciate the difficulty and the work that goes into a performance like that. But Wright also realizes that Sunday, it will be the second-seeded Hoyas' turn to try to slow down Curry.

"Right now we're not about admiring anybody," Wright said. "We want to win. He's a great player. You have to try to do what you have to do to stop him."

Few teams, if any, have been able to stop Curry, who averages 25.5 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting (45 percent from three-point range). His performance against seventh-seeded Gonzaga was electrifying: He scored 30 of the Wildcats' 46 points in the second half, as they overcame an 11-point deficit, and he made 8 of 10 three-point shots, including one that gave Davidson the lead to stay with 64 seconds to play.

Coach Bob McKillop compared it to "an opening-night star performance on Broadway," one that got rave reviews. On Saturday, Curry's picture was splashed across both the front page ("Curry Power") and the sports section ("Curry Is Simply Sizzling") of the Charlotte Observer.

But his teammates, who watched Curry score at least 30 points in eight other games this season, weren't surprised. Said junior Max Paulhus Gosselin, "I thought, 'There we go again. He's on fire.' "

For senior Jason Richards, the signature moment of the game was when Curry hit a three-pointer and then slapped the NCAA logo at midcourt. "You could tell how much fun he was having, and how much fun we were having," Richards said.

For senior Thomas Sander, it was a sequence in which Curry missed a fast-break layup against Gonzaga's Jeremy Pargo, but came back on the next possession to score and draw a foul. "He's so good, he plays play-to-play and doesn't let anything get to him," Sander said.

Gonzaga tried everything -- man-to-man, triangle-and-two, zone -- against Curry, but he still got his shots (22, to be exact). Aside from Curry's innate talent -- his father, Dell, starred at Virginia Tech and played 16 seasons in the NBA -- the Wildcats as a team work hard to set screens and find ways to get him the ball.

"A lot of his points come off plays like this, where there's an offensive rebound or scramble and he toes up on the line and they are trained to find him in a scramble situation," Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said. "It doesn't have a whole lot to do with your man-to-man defense, because you're pursuing rebounds. . . . [His teammates] find him, they know their roles, and you know, we actually guarded him probably as well as we could."

So that is the challenge the Hoyas face Sunday. They have several players who can shadow Curry -- Jonathan Wallace, Jessie Sapp, Jeremiah Rivers, Tyler Crawford and Wright -- but they all stressed the importance of team defense. Georgetown is used to switching on screens on the perimeter, "but you have to switch well, because if you don't, then he'll knock the shot down quick," Sapp said.

"You're not going to leave anybody out on an island and let him get destroyed by himself. We're a team," Wright said. "Defensively, one person is not going to beat us. Our style is to play tough on-the-ball defense and help. That's what we have to do to stop good teams."

Over the past three seasons, the Hoyas have faced several outstanding shooters in the Big East: Syracuse's Gerry McNamara, Villanova's Allan Ray and Scottie Reynolds, Notre Dame's Colin Falls -- all players that "you have to know where they're at all the time," in Sapp's words. Those experiences, of having to be attentive at all times, should help.

"With Stephen, I think you have to keep him as uncomfortable as you can," said Rivers, Georgetown's best perimeter defender. "He's coming off of screens, his teammates look for him. He's real smart. He doesn't force much. He knows how to play the game, which probably makes it the hardest for a defender. For me, I'm just going to try to make him think differently than he usually does."

Curry said he has seen pretty much every defense possible this season. He has had success against almost all of them. UCLA was the most physical and the biggest team he has faced, and he was 6 of 19 from the field and scored 15 points, his third-lowest total of the season.

"He's a special player and he's the focal point of everything that they do," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "The kid makes contested shots with guys draped all over him, and he doesn't need any time to get [a shot] off, and most importantly, his teammates do a terrific job in the screening and the passing. We just hope he misses, but we haven't seen too many games where he's missed."

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