CHARLOTTE — North Carolina State tried five different defenders against Davidson star junior guard Stephen Curry, but the national Player of the Year candidate could not be contained in a record-setting performance Saturday.
Curry set a collegiate Time Warner Cable Arena scoring record with 44 points on 15 of 33 shooting to close out NC State 72-67 in front of 11,599 fans. The No. 22-ranked Wildcats improved to 6-1, while the Wolfpack fell to 4-1.
Curry struggled from three-point range — shooting 4 for 14 — but made a clutch shot from beyond the arc when it counted down the stretch. Teammate Will Archambeault badly air-balled a three-pointer in the corner, but power forward Steve Rossiter grabbed the miss.
Curry couldn't wait for the pass to come his way at the top of the key, setting up behind the NBA three-point stripe at the home of the Charlotte Bobcats. When Rossiter, who heisted for a few seconds, finally spotted the open Curry, he drained it with 1:23 left in the game to give Davidson a 70-66 lead.
"I was the one guarding him and I probably shouldn't have gone for the rebound, but it was a late-game situation and was trying to get an extra body in there," said NC State freshman shooting guard C.J. Williams, who sparked the Pack early with two three-pointers en route to seven points. "When he shot it, I kind of felt that it was going to go in. He hits those kind of shots all the time. Just unfortunately, I stepped off of him and I knocked it down."
NC State still had time to mount a comeback, but redshirt junior power forward Brandon Costner split a pair of free throws with 1:01 left to cut the lead to 70-67. Following a Curry three-pointer rimming out, the Pack had one more shot to tie the game.
The first sequence led to center Ben McCauley missing a layup, but the offensive rebound was knocked out of bounds by the Wildcats with 11.8 seconds to play with. NC State played to tie the game with a three-pointer with Costner also trying a top of the key deep three-pointer, but the shot missed.
"We had all three-point shooters in the game, and we were just trying to find the one that was open," Williams said. "There was a set play, but it was one of those plays, where if you are open, shoot it."
Curry added two free throws with 4.1 seconds left and Davidson pulled out another close victory, and leaving NC State to think about what could have been.
"The shot we got, you have to look at it, but were hoping one of our guys would break open," NC State coach Sidney Lowe said. "They are pretty clever and do a nice job on out of bounds plays.
"We just missed shots. Neither team really shot well [both under 38 percent]."
Curry's shots at the free-throw line were about the only time he didn't have a fresh defender in his face.
"I felt bad for all the guards coming into the game, and they did a good job for the most part, but he's a heck of a player," McCauley said. "He played well, and got to play in his home area, which kind of boosted it too."
NC State rotated point guards Javier Gonzalez and Farnold Degand, shooting guards Williams and Trevor Ferguson, and forward Simon Harris also took a few turns guarding the video game-like scoring machine, who wowed the country last year in leading Davidson to the Elite Eight.
"I learned that you just can't never stop [against a guy like Curry]," Williams said. "You can't give a great scorer any time off."
Even when Curry missed, Davidson was usually there to clean it up. With the defense swarming around Curry, center Andrew Lovedale would get into position for the offensive rebound and putback, scoring three buckets in the last 11 minutes of the game
Lovedale grabbed seven offensive rebounds out of his nine-board total, to chip in with 12 points. The Wildcats finished with 21 offensive rebounds for the game, and out-rebounded the taller Wolfpack overall, 45-39.
"That is just what happens when you have two guys guarding one," McCauley said. "Someone is going to be open for an offensive rebound. You have to credit them because they all crash, and they crash hard. We have to really concentrate on the defensive end and defensive boards. That is what wins games."
Curry's play also set the tempo for the game, which NC State struggled with at times, leading to 19 turnovers. When the Wolfpack slowed the game down, big men McCauley and Costner were able to get more touches in the post. The 6-foot-9 Costner led the Pack with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while McCauley, a 6-9 senior, had 16 points and 10 rebounds. The duo combined for 14 out of 18 from the free-throw line.
Davidson gave a chance for NC State to see how it measured up against a ranked opponent after the Pack opened the season with four relatively easy opponents.
"We learned how to play together because when they made their runs, we were able to stay together and make a nice little push back," Williams said. "We still have a ways to go to where we want to be. We'll be looking forward to the next game."
A pair of big non-conference games still loom ahead, giving NC State a chance to record a signature win before ACC play starts. The Pack host Marquette on Dec. 22 and play at Florida on Jan. 3.
"We didn't finish the game, but we learned what you need to do to finish out the game," McCauley said. "You can't take ill-advised shots and take care of the ball. You have to really run the offense. With Coach Lowe's offense, when you run it correctly, you get baskets."
NC State also played down the stretch without senior small forward Courtney Fells, who injured his left shoulder with a little over 6 minutes left in the first half, following a big dunk. Fells came back in at the 4:16 mark and played through the pain, but was limited in the second half. The Pack's leading scorer at 16 points per game, logged only 22 minutes and tallied four points.
"We'll have to wait to see when we get back [to Raleigh], and we'll probably get an X-ray or something on his shoulder," Lowe said. "There is no question we missed him."
NC State also welcomed back redshirt junior point guard Farnold Degand, who missed the last three games because of tendinitis in his knee. However, Degand was still limited, and only played four minutes.
The crowd included LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, while former Wolfpack star J.J. Hickson, also of the Cavs, watched the game behind his former team's bench. Cleveland plays the Charlotte Bobcats at 7 p.m. Saturday.