Team Profile: Butler – Davidson Recap

by Rick Dimon | February 22nd, 2009

Butler 75, Davidson 63

The Worldwide Leader in Sports got what it wanted when Stephen Curry, a gametime decision due to an ankle injury, suited up and stepped on the floor for the opening tip. Unfortunately for Davidson, Curry’s presence made little difference against Butler on ESPNU BracketBuster weekend.

Butler went into Davidson on Saturday afternoon in the marquee mid-major matchup and rolled over the host Wildcats 75-63. Gordon Hayward’s career-high 27 points for Butler and a cold-shooting night from Curry doomed last year’s NCAA Tournament darlings.

Curry, who sprained an ankle last weekend and missed his team’s blowout loss to the Citadel on Wednesday, was slow to get back in the groove. He missed his first eight shots and did not score until he hit a running layup with 6:27 to go in the first half. That cut the Butler lead to 20-16.

With a 6-0 run over the last two minutes of the half, the Wildcats–following several Hayward three-pointers–were within 34-29 at the intermission. Not terrible considering their star’s dreadful start.

Curry came right out in the second half and buried a three to bring the Cats within a mere two points. They would never get any closer.

Every time Curry hit a shot to breathe life into Davidson, Hayward always seemed to have an answer. He drilled a three-pointer right away to make it 37-32, then after Curry hit another three two make it 44-35, Hayward again responded from downtown to extend the lead back to 12.

Thanks to impressive defense by freshman Ronald Nored on Curry, the nation’s leading scorer could not get his team back within striking distance. Over the last 17 minutes of the second half, the margin was never closer than 10 points at 49-39.

The Bulldogs hit nine of 10 free throws in the last three minutes of the game to ensure that Davidson, which had a 27-game home winning streak still going one week ago, would lose its third straight game in Belk Arena.

Hayward was 6-for-12 from the floor (4-for-7 from three-point range) and 11-for-12 at the charity stripe en route to his career-high performance. Hounded by Nored all day long, Curry finished with 20 points on a woeful 6-for-23 from the floor, including 2-for-13 from downtown.

“It was debatable as to whether he was going to play as much as an hour before the game,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop explained. “I think his rhythm was not there.”

“It’s been a week since I played live action,” Curry added. “That might have had something to do with it, but when it comes to game time, you’ve got to make those shots. If you’re suiting up you’ve got to make those shots that you normally make.”

Tournament Implications

Butler – While both teams were desperate for a win simply to end recent slumps, Davidson was more desperate in terms of NCAA implications. Butler still would have been looking good even with a road loss to the Wildcats. A win only guarantees–or close to it–what would have been a likelihood anyway. Barring a monumental collapse in the last two games of the regular season and Horizon League Tournament, the Bulldogs are back in March Madness.

Davidson – The Wildcats’ NCAA Tournament at-large hopes were already on life support going into Saturday’s BracketBuster showdown, and now they are all but dead. Davidson’s best win is over West Virginia at Madison Square Garden and the Cats also beat N.C. State in Charlotte. Neither one of those victories, however, will be enough. A win over Oklahoma, Purdue, or Duke would have had the Wildcats still in the picture, but they missed all three of those opportunities (only the loss to Oklahoma was close). An Elite 8 participant last year, Davidson will have to win its fourth-straight Southern Conference Tournament in order to make another appearance in the Big Dance.

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