Curry misses first 8 shots in return, can't save Davidson from Butler

DAVIDSON, N.C. -- Stephen Curry insisted his sprained left ankle didn't hurt once the game started and the adrenaline flowed. His rhythm and confidence remained sidelined, though, giving Butler (No. 22 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP)
an opening for a much-needed road victory.

With Gordon Hayward scoring a career-high 27 points and Curry unable to match him because of subpar shooting, the Bulldogs beat Davidson 75-63 on Saturday to snap a two-game losing streak.

Returning after missing the first game of his career, Curry started 0-for-8 from the field. The junior scored 20 points, but it came on 6-of-23 shooting, including 2-of-13 from 3-point range.

Appearing a step slow working off screens and missing many of his shots short, the nation's leading scorer committed seven turnovers.

"It was debatable as to whether he was going to play as much as an hour before the game. And I think his rhythm was not there," Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. "I don't believe he tweaked it at all. I do believe that when he missed his shots it really affected his confidence."

Curry got little help from his teammates and Butler (23-4) broke open a close game early in the second half to send Davidson (22-6) to its second straight loss.

Emerging after an extended period in the training room after the game to get treatment, a frustrated Curry refused to use the ankle as an excuse.

"It's been a week since I played live action," Curry said. "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 your normally make. It's a disappointing game for us."

Hayward had nine rebounds and Matt Howard scored 12 points for Butler, which avoided its first three-game losing streak in four years.

"I think that our guys got excited for the chance to play against a great player, a team that went to the Elite Eight last year," Butler coach Brad Stevens said.

The teams' recent struggles took some of the luster off what was billed as the premier made-for-TV matchup of ESPN's BracketBusters series. Curry's woes prevented any second-half suspense.

Curry badly turned his ankle on a drive a week ago, and sat out Wednesday's loss to The Citadel, where his teammates managed just 46 points and shot 25 percent from the field.

Curry, who came in averaging 29 points a game, was held out of contact drills in practice Friday. But jogged onto the court 90 minutes before tipoff dressed and wearing a black and gray brace on his ankle. He looked fine in warmups, but when the game started he clearly wasn't 100 percent.

Shadowed most of the game by freshman Ronald Nored, Curry didn't score until his driving layup and ensuing three-point play with 6:27 left in the first half.

"My job was really to stay low, stay with him," Nored said. "If I could be there and make it tough, we thought we had a really good chance to maybe make him miss, maybe make him make a tough shot."

With Howard dominating the inside and Hayward drilling two 3-pointers, Butler built a 10-point lead before Curry scored four points near the end of the half, including a leaner at the buzzer, to get Davidson within 34-29.

Curry hit a 3 to start the second half, but then Hayward went to work, scoring 10 points in a 13-3 run. Curry picked up his fourth foul with 6:52 left and even missed two free throws.

Butler was 9-of-42 from 3-point range in consecutive losses to Loyola of Chicago and Wisconsin-Milwaukee which prevented it from clinching the Horizon League regular-season title. Behind Hayward's four 3s, the Bulldogs were 7-of-20 from long range in their 11th road win.

Hayward, one of three freshmen to start for the Bulldogs, surpassed his previous career-high of 25 points set at Ohio State and matched at Illinois-Chicago.

"Personally, I love playing on the road," Hayward said. "I don't know what it is. It's something about just silencing the crowd and just coming in and sticking together."

The Bulldogs forced 19 turnovers in the charged atmosphere of sold-out Belk Arena, where fans wore white T-shirts and waved white towels -- but had little to cheer.

Andrew Lovedale added 15 points for Davidson, which has lost three straight at home following a 27-game winning streak. It leaves Curry and Davidson with the probable prospect of having to win the Southern Conference tournament to have a chance to repeat last year's NCAA run to the final eight.

To do that, Curry will have to regain his touch.

"The moves I usually make I thought I did," Curry said. "Maybe my conditioning being down from a week off kind of took a toll."