by Matt Saldaña
CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/DURHAM – Thursday night, Duke kept a sleeping giant relatively subdued, holding the best college-basketball guard in the country to eight first-half points--and surviving a late run in the second half--to defeat Davidson, 79-67. All eyes were on Stephen Curry, the player who last year led his 23rd-ranked team to the Elite Eight, losing narrowly in that round to Kansas, the tournament's eventual champion. But thanks to Duke's help defense, and particularly pesky coverage by Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, Curry missed his first four shots, and didn't get on the board for the first 14 minutes of the game.
In the second half, Davidson chipped away at a 25-point deficit, with Curry piercing holes through double-team D on several nifty plays, and got as close as 69-61. But Lance Thomas grabbed a critical offensive board with less than three minutes to go, and was fouled by Curry. Thomas, a 53-percent free-throw shooter, hit both shots in a one-and-one situation, and Davidson never got closer.
"Those two free throws were huge. They were the biggest points of the game," Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "If he misses--it's a one-one, too--it's eight points, they come down and hit a three, it's a different ballgame. We could lose that game."
Later, Scheyer picked the ball from Curry, brought the ball up, and nailed a pull-up three-pointer, sealing the victory. He finished the game with 22 points, matching Kyle Singler's offensive contribution. Curry, who finished with 29, looked flustered as he tossed up early shots--including one flat-footed airball--but took over the game midway through the second-half. In one four-minute strech, which Krzyzewski put to a halt by calling a 30-second timeout, Curry scored nine points, to go with an assist, a block and a rebound (and several unrecorded defensive stops). But Duke's lead proved insurmountable, and a late start prevented Curry from leading his team to an upset victory in January. As Davidson returns to Southern Conference play (in which, last season, they were a perfect 20-0), Duke heads out for two ACC road games: Flordia State, and Georgia Tech.