- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 7, 2009

DURHAM, N.C. | Stephen Curry has more to worry about than just keeping No. 2 Duke’s defenders out of his face. Like keeping the Blue Devils’ rowdy student section out of his head.

Curry “probably isn’t thinking just about what kind of defense we’re going to throw at them,” Duke guard Nolan Smith said Tuesday. “I’m sure he’s thinking, ‘What are the Crazies going to say to me? How can I get them quiet?’ That’s an advantage already.”

They reserve a special level of that kind of treatment at Duke for those marquee players leading winning teams into Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Curry certainly qualifies.

The nation’s leading scorer made a meteoric rise to stardom last season during Davidson’s NCAA tournament run, put on a showstopping performance last month that had Madison Square Garden buzzing and is out to prove the Wildcats (10-2) are more than just a midmajor darling.

Next up Wednesday night: silencing Duke’s Cameron Crazies.

“They’re going to be into it. To go into that kind of atmosphere is something that prepares you for down the road,” Curry said. “It’s just a special environment, so we’re going to enjoy it while we’re playing and have fun while we’re up there.”

Easier said than done. Not many visitors walk out of the 9,314-seat stadium with a smile these days, not after Duke began piling up two long winning streaks inside the notoriously noisy building.

“They’re outside in tents right now, probably watching film on Curry,” said Smith, who will guard the Davidson star. “They have their own film sessions.”

The Blue Devils (12-1) haven’t lost a nonconference home game in nearly nine full years. The last time they were beaten at Cameron by an instate, non-ACC team was in 1981 - back when Mike Krzyzewski was just in his second year.

Then again, that loss came against Davidson.

“At home, there’s just so much at stake,” Smith said. “We can’t lose at home.”

Curry is plenty familiar with the Cameron mystique. The Charlotte native and son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry experienced it firsthand two seasons ago when Duke held him to five points in a 75-47 loss that still rankles him.

But that came well before Curry blossomed onto the national scene as the most compelling story of last season’s NCAA tournament, leading 10th-seeded Davidson to within a missed 3-pointer of a win over eventual national champion Kansas and a most unlikely spot in the Final Four.

“Growing up in this area, you hear about the Cameron Crazies and how tough an atmosphere it is up there,” Curry said. “But foul trouble for me personally got in the way of my performance up there. But I think we’re a better team now than we were at that point. I think we’ll be a little more prepared to go up there and play hard.”

So far, Curry is showing no signs of slowing down.

“I think Curry’s the best guard [in the country]. He may be the best player,” Krzyzewski said. “Sensational, man. … When you’re on him, he gets his shot off. If he gets his shot off, it has a chance to go in.”

He leads Division I in scoring despite a pair of mitigating factors - his shift to point guard and relentless attention opposing defenses. His 29.2-point average includes a scoreless outing against a Loyola team that stuck two defenders on Curry at all times and gave the other Wildcats a four-on-three advantage for 40 minutes.

And under the bright lights at “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” Curry came up biggest when it counted most at last month’s Jimmy V Classic. After missing 12 of his first 13 3-pointers, he knocked down a pair of huge 3s while scoring 13 of Davidson’s final 15 points in a 68-65 victory over West Virginia.

Now, he surely will provide a formidable measuring stick for an improved Duke defense that allowed only 13 points in the second half of Sunday’s 69-44 win over Virginia Tech.

“A lot of our focus is going to be on Curry, but our defense is already good,” Smith said. “With me on the ball, I’m going to focus on him and do as best a job as I can of making him take tough shots and, when he gives the ball up, staying locked in on him. … He gets a lot of shots where people forget about him, and you can’t forget about a player like Curry.”

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