DAVIDSON, N.C. (AP)—Opponents expect Davidson’s All-American guard Stephen Curry to put up big numbers in every game. When his teammates start getting hot the Wildcats are tough to beat.
Curry scored 39 points and No. 24 Davidson held off two second-half rallies to beat Florida Atlantic 76-60 on Monday night in an NIT Season Tip-Off consolation-round game.
Andrew Lovedale added 13 points and 15 rebounds, and Bryant Barr scored 12 points for the Wildcats (4-1), who will play Loyola (Md.) on Tuesday night in the second consolation game.
“We knew that Curry was going to get 30 or more,” Florida Atlantic head coach Mike Jarvis said. “You don’t beat Davidson by stopping him—you beat them by making sure the other guys don’t beat you.
“They’ve got one great player and a lot of good players, but those good players play their roles very well. They do a lot of little things that don’t show up in the box score. … They’re the kind of team we want to be in the very near future.”
Curry shot 13-of-21 from the field, including 5-of-9 on 3-pointers.
“Andrew and Steve Rossiter (who had 12 rebounds) were particularly effective,” Davidson head coach Bob McKillop said. “And we had guys who didn’t shoot well, but were extremely effective in rebounding, defending, passing— just connecting all the little things on our offense.
“Our guys are getting a lot of open looks because there’s so much covering on Steph. The consistency of our shooting, if it steps to the forefront, we’ve got a chance to be pretty good this year.”
Xavier Perkins scored 24 points and Shavar Richardson had 19 for Florida Atlantic (3-2), who cut the Wildcats’ 11-point halftime lead in half in the opening minutes of the second half.
Down 41-30, the Owls pulled within 44-39 on Richardson’s hook shot with 16:18 left. But Curry scored 12 points during a 15-1 run, capped by a pair of free throws with 11:33 left, to put Davidson ahead 59-40, its biggest lead of the game.
“We played decent,” said Curry, who is averaging 32 points through five games. “We were missing shots, but we really dominated the boards and got lots of second opportunities. … But we really had to dig down in the second half. We had to get stops and control the tempo on the offensive end.”
Florida Atlantic—which plays James Madison on Tuesday in a NIT consolation game—managed to whittle the Wildcats’ lead back to 10 points twice later in the half, the last time at 68-58 on two Perkins free throws with 6:05 left.
But Barr’s 3-pointer, followed by a pair of Curry free throws, pushed Davidson’s lead back to 15 points and gave them some breathing room.
“We had our chances, but we expended a lot of energy,” Jarvis said. “Once they got back ahead, it was going to be very difficult to overcome that. … We scared them for a little bit, but not enough.”
With Curry scoring 20 points in the first half, the Wildcats—who dropped three spots in the latest AP Top 25 poll after losing to then-No. 14 Oklahoma in the second round of the NIT Season Tip-Off on Nov. 18—never trailed. Davidson scored the game’s first six points and built double-digit leads from there.
However, the Owls made it interesting, cutting the Wildcats’ lead to 13-10 on Richardson’s 3-point play with 14:07 left, and twice pulling within five points midway through the half, the last at 20-15 on Carderro Nwoji’s 3-pointer with 11 minutes remaining.
But Curry got Davidson out of those jams both times. He hit a short jumper and a 3-pointer, then fed Lovedale on back-to-back layups before nailing another 3 with 9:06 left to put the Wildcats back up 27-15.
Florida Atlantic would pull no closer than nine points the rest of the half, with Will Archambault’s hook shot with 40 seconds left giving Davidson an 11-point lead at the break.