Mid-major Davidson College, enrollment 1,950, has played basketball power Kansas, enrollment 28,400, to a draw throughout history.
“We had one entertaining game. The other one stunk,” KU coach Bill Self said Thursday while previewing Saturday’s game between the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks (9-1) and Wildcats (5-3), set for a 6 p.m., tip at the Sprint Center.
KU edged Davidson 59-57 in a 2008 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight game in Detroit. The Jayhawks went on to win the national championship. Four seasons later, Davidson defeated KU 80-74 on Dec. 19, 2011, also at the Sprint Center. Those are the only two meetings between KU and the Davidson, N.C., school, which is now a third-year member of the Atlantic 10 after many years in the Southern Conference.
“The way that this one is set up, it’s pretty eerie in that it’s the exact same time of year in Kansas City — it’s going to be ridiculously cold, and that we go west the next game — because I think last time we went to USC right before Christmas and this time we’re going to Vegas,” Self said. “So there are some similarities going back to that 2011 game.”
In 2011, 28th-year Davidson coach Bob McKillop’s Wildcats defeated the Jayhawks three days before KU’s 63-47 pre-Christmas vacation victory over USC in Los Angeles. That KU team went on to lose to Kentucky in the national title game.
“The only thing I think back when I think of Davidson,” Self said, “is I’m just glad that Steph didn’t take the last shot. That’s probably the thing I think about as much as anything.”
It was Jason Richards, not current NBA scoring machine Steph Curry, who missed a last-second 25-foot three-pointer that, had it swished, would have sent Davidson, not KU, to the 2008 Final Four.
“We were fortunate we did a pretty good job on him (Curry),” Self said. “I’m not sure we did a great job. I think maybe he just missed shots because he could get a shot any time he wanted.”
Curry scored 25 points against KU off 9-of-25 shooting (4 of 16 from three).
On that final KU stop, Davidson’s Curry brought up the ball with 16.1 seconds left and the Wildcats trailing by two. Brandon Rush, who later became a teammate of Curry on the Golden State Warriors, slipped while guarding Curry 20 feet from the basket with 10 seconds left. Mario Chalmers then helped on Curry, who delivered the ball to Richards. Richards’ shot over Chalmers and Sherron Collins clanged off the backboard.
“He (Curry) didn’t really get a chance to get a look off, fortunately for us, because he is the best there is of making bad shots. He takes off-balance, crazy stuff that goes in,” Self said. “If he got the shot up, chances are pretty good it would have gone down. Fortunately we defended that pretty well. Although it was a hard shot, the guy (Richards) missed it wide left and the rest is history.”
Self replied “no, no, no” when asked if he expected Curry to dominate the NBA as he has.
“I obviously thought he was good,” Self said. “He was by far the best player in the tournament that year. And that tournament was loaded. You look at the players in the Final Four, whether it be (Derrick) Rose or (Russell) Westbrook, (Kevin) Love, (Luc) Mbah a Moute, all of our guys then Ty Lawson, (Tyler) Hansbrough, (Wayne) Ellington, (Danny) Green, you think of all those guys that played in that Final Four, and Steph Curry was by far the best player in the tournament.”
The Wildcats have another standout guard on the roster this season in senior Jack Gibbs, who averages 24.3 points a game off 43 percent shooting (22 of 61 from three for 36.1 percent). Gibbs has 29 assists against 24 turnovers.
Gibbs, who leads the Atlantic 10 and is fourth in the country in scoring, totaled 30 points in the Wildcats’ last game, an 83-74 loss to North Carolina on Dec. 7 in Chapel Hill, N.C., during which Davidson trailed by three points with two minutes to play. Forward Peyton Aldridge (20.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg) had 22 points versus the Tar Heels.
“He’s a strong guard. He can get his own shot,” Self said of Gibbs. “They know how to play. He’ll pass and immediately they’ll set some screens for him and get the shot off the catch a little bit. It will be a big challenge for Frank (Mason) and Devonté to try to keep him under his average.”
Of Davidson coach McKillop, Self said: “He’s one of the most respected coaches there is in the country, hands down. He’s obviously sharp. He looks like a million dollars. He looks like Cary Grant or something there on the sideline. He gets those guys to play so tough and they execute and they’re sound. There’s very few out there respected as much as him. He’s had opportunities to go other places, but obviously feels like that’s the best fit for him, and I think it’s played out over time to be a great fit.”
Self attends Oak Hill game
Self watched KU signee Billy Preston score 13 points in Oak Hill Academy’s 83-78 loss to Sierra Canyon (Calif.) on Thursday at ESPN’s High School Showcase in New Castle, Ind. Oak Hill had its 56-game win streak snapped. Preston is a 6-9 senior forward ranked No. 8 in the recruiting Class of 2017 by Rivals.com. KU target Romeo Langford, a 6-4 junior shooting guard who is ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2018, scored 40 points for New Albany (Ind.) High in an 85-63 loss to La Lumiere (Indiana) at the same event. Self also watched that game.