Originally Published: January 13, 2013

Duke's Curry among the nation's lucky ones

Robbi Pickeral
ESPN.com

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Duke guard Seth Curry doesn't know the actual medical name of his lingering right shin injury. He just knows it tweaks or twinges or pains him every time he runs -- meaning, for a college basketball player this time of year, pretty much every day.

He hurts. But the only thing that would hurt worse is not playing at all.

"I wanted to play my senior year; that's what's driving me pretty much,'' the Wooden Award finalist said last week, before his top-ranked Blue Devils suffered their first loss of the season at No. 20 NC State. "I still feel like I can be a top player in the ACC and contribute to my team with the injury. So I don't want to just sit out and let a year go by."

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Chuck Liddy/Raleigh News & Observer/Getty ImagesSeth Curry was hurt late in Saturday's loss to NC State, adding to the physical issues he's faced this season.

Duke fans got a scare Saturday when, with about three minutes left in Raleigh, Curry slipped on a wet spot on the court and crumpled to the ground in obvious pain. He rolled his left ankle, and although he didn't return to the game -- stymieing Duke's chances at a rally, considering he scored 22 points -- early indications are that the injury is mild.

But it's another illustration of how important Curry's decision to compete despite the hurting shin has been for the Blue Devils -- and may also be as his team tries to bounce back.

Think about it: Had Curry (who hurt his lower leg during the offseason) had to sit out some or all of 2012-13, it likely would have put more pressure on freshman wing Rasheed Sulaimon, among others, to score more and more often. The ACC Rookie of the Year candidate has shown nice flashes, but not with the savvy of the senior who is averaging 16 ppg and 41.3 percent 3-point shooting.

And with forward Ryan Kelly now sidelined indefinitely with a right foot injury, it would have left two senior leaders watching from the bench.

Uh-oh.

"It is frustrating,'' Curry said of the injury, "but it would be more frustrating if I were sitting out of a bunch of games."

As it is, Curry -- son of former NBA standout Del and brother of current NBA guard Stephen -- sits out most workouts. He said he practices only about 15 percent of the time in order to rest his leg; this is something his teammates, he added, have kindly understood -- especially when he continues to contribute so much.

Such as his 23 points against Kentucky earlier this season. Or his 25 against Minnesota. Or his 31 against Santa Clara.

Or the layup followed by a 3 in the second half Saturday that cut NC State's lead to one.

"I kind of shock myself sometimes,'' said Curry, who has missed only one game -- a win over Delaware -- and that was because of a left ankle injury. "But that's just the thing about being a fifth-year senior. I know what I do, and my teammates know what I do."

Between games, when he isn't practicing, what he does is get treatment and go to class and study, all in a walking boot. Trainers have told him his shin seems to be improving, although it doesn't really feel like it.

"It's kind of a tricky situation,'' Curry said. "I think the only way to heal it is to rest it, and I can't do that right now. I'll probably do it for a month or two after the season."

After, he hopes, a long NCAA run. The thought and goal of that makes all the discomfort worth it.

"When it first happened … and I sat out the whole month before the season started, I didn't know if I was going to be able to play, have surgery or what. It was scary, it was real scary.

"I'm just so happy to be out there playing."

Teams and players that haven't been so lucky:

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

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AP Photo/Keith SrakocicC.J. McCollum was an elite scorer when he was sidelined.

The senior guard who helped stun Duke in the NCAA round of 64 last season broke his left foot earlier this month in a loss to VCU. The best-case scenario is that he could return in early March, although he may not return at all. He was averaging 23.9 ppg at the time of his injury.

Reggie Johnson, Miami

The Hurricanes are 4-2 (2-0 in the ACC) without the wide-bodied big man, who was averaging a double-double before he fractured his thumb last month. Sixth-year senior Julian Gamble has been filling in admirably, but they're still hoping for a mid- rather than late-February return.

Tim Frazier, Penn State

There weren't huge expectations for the Nittany Lions this season, but what there were centered around point guard Frazier, who was averaging 16.3 points and 3.8 assists before he ruptured his left Achilles tendon in November. PSU is 6-5 without him this season heading into Sunday's game, but at least a medical redshirt is a possibility.

Drew Crawford, Northwestern

Here's another senior who will be looking for a fifth year after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder last month. He was his team's leading scorer through the first 10 games; the Wildcats are 3-3 since.

Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee

Even after a setback in his recovery from offseason arthroscopic knee surgery, it was thought the senior (who averaged 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds last season) would be able to play this season. But the team announced earlier this month it would redshirt the forward. The 8-6 Vols miss his offense, averaging just 65.2 ppg.

Ryan Kelly, Duke

The hope is that Kelly, who missed three postseason games last year because of the same foot, is sidelined only a couple of weeks. The Devils are 0-1 without him.

Laurence Bowers, Missouri

The Tigers' leading scorer will miss at least one more game after spraining the MCL in his right knee last week. No. 10 Missouri lost at Ole Miss without him Saturday and shot only 36.8 percent. Bowers missed all of last season with a torn ligament in his left knee.

Carl Hall, Wichita State

The forward was averaging 13.9 points and 7.6 rebounds when he broke his right thumb after falling on it in practice in mid-December. He was expected to miss a month. His team has won six straight without him heading into Sunday.

Luke Martinez, Wyoming

The senior guard is sidelined indefinitely after reportedly breaking his right ring finger in a Dec. 30 bar fight. The Cowboys are 2-1 without him, including their first loss of the season last week to Boise State.

Observations from Saturday's games

By Myron Medcalf
ESPN.com

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Mark Zerof/USA TODAY SportsElston Turner's 40 points were too much for Kentucky.

Southern (SWAC) might be better than Kentucky: I'm not one to get into a transitive discussion, but the truth is that Kentucky just lost to a Texas A&M program that suffered a 53-51 home loss to Southern on Dec. 22. I know it doesn't work like that.

And you can't ignore the fact that Elston Turner (40 points, 6-for-10 from the 3-point line) played like Jesus Shuttlesworth ("He Got Game") in the 83-71 win.

But entering this game, the Aggies -- like the majority of the SEC -- were a mediocre squad. But the Wildcats are moving toward mediocrity with every poor performance.

Remember when Rupp Arena was special? The Wildcats had won 55 consecutive games there before Baylor stopped that streak last month. This group managed to win five in a row. That's decent, I guess. I've hyped the Wildcats' potential all season. I'm done with that.

This young group is a mess -- a lot of talent, no substance.

The Bruins are coming: UCLA can officially put its Nov. 25 loss to Cal Poly behind it. This is not the same team. The Bruins' 78-75 victory over Colorado in Boulder was their ninth in a row. What's changed?

Well, Shabazz Muhammad (18.5 ppg) is in shape now. And he certainly looks the part of the elite recruit that many expected to carry the program in 2012-13.

But it was Travis Wear (23 points) who came up big against the Buffaloes. That was a crucial road win for a UCLA team (51.7 percent from the field) that has played its way into the Pac-12 title picture and evolved into a program that could be one of the nation's best in the coming months.

The Bruins' defense is improving. (Colorado committed 14 turnovers and shot 5-for-17 from the 3-point line.) And their offense (19th, according to Ken Pomeroy) is jelling. Watch out for UCLA.

Welcome to the SEC title conversation, Ole Miss: Andy Kennedy's program was an enigma as SEC play began. The Rebels' numbers have been impressive (83.7 points per game, top 40 in Ken Pomeroy's offensive and defensive efficiency ratings) all season.

But their nonconference strength of schedule was so mediocre (242nd, per ESPN.com's RPI) that it was difficult to know if those stats were valid indicators of their potential. Losses to Middle Tennessee State and Indiana State only complicated the assessment process. But Saturday's 64-49 home victory over No. 10 Missouri was a statement victory for the program.

The Rebels are legit. Yes, Laurence Bowers' absence (knee injury) affected the Tigers, but they lost because Ole Miss' defense pressured them into costly mistakes (19 turnovers, 2-for-18 from beyond the arc and a season-low 49 points). And they couldn't stop Murphy Holloway (22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals and a block).

Ole Miss is officially an SEC contender.

Colorado State overcomes 18-point halftime deficit in overtime thriller: I know No. 16 San Diego State's 79-72 overtime victory over Colorado State says a lot about its standing in the Mountain West. It's tough to argue that the Aztecs aren't the best team in this deep league.

They have one of the best defenses in the country (22nd in Pomeroy's ratings). Plus, Jamaal Franklin leads SDSU's talented and versatile offense. But I loved this game because of the heart that the Rams showcased.

Colorado State was down 41-23 at halftime in this matchup. Colton Iverson (18 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks), however, helped his team close the gap in the second half. He sent this one into overtime with a putback in the final seconds.

CSU's surge was more evidence of the depth in the MWC. And I actually thought this was the game of the day.

So much action. Such an amazing comeback.

Indiana and Minnesota win: No. 5 Indiana and No. 8 Minnesota did plenty to boost their respective national reputations in the Hoosiers' 88-81 win over the Gophers in Bloomington.

For the bulk of the game, Indiana proved that it is one of the best teams in the country with a dominant performance that nearly KO'd Minnesota. The Hoosiers were 7-for-11 from the 3-point line and led 52-29 at halftime. It was an amazing performance.

A lot of teams would have been resigned to defeat if trailing by 23 points at the half, especially against a Hoosiers squad that had won 18 in a row at Assembly Hall. Not Minnesota.

This gutsy crew, by far Tubby Smith's most skilled, scored 52 points and held the Hoosiers to a 1-for-8 clip from beyond the arc in the second half. They kept fighting and had a legitimate shot at the upset late.

That's what matters for a program that could face the No. 1 team in the country Thursday when it welcomes Michigan in to Minneapolis. The Gophers can feed off that finish.

North Carolina prevails in must-win over Florida State: The Tar Heels needed this one. They'd lost their first two ACC games (against Virginia and Miami) and had to avoid an 0-3 start in the ACC.

They hadn't cracked 60 points since that 79-73 win over UNLV on Dec. 29. They entered Saturday's matchup at Florida State without Leslie McDonald, who tweaked a knee prior to the game.

Yet the Tar Heels competed like a team that understood the stakes in their 77-72 victory over the Seminoles.

P.J. Hairston led the way with a career-high 23 points (4-for-9 from the 3-point line).

Marcus Paige sealed the game with a pair of late free throws.

I was impressed with their relentlessness, especially since they were playing on the road.

To read all of Myron's observations from Saturday's games, click here.

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