Scoring mark will be family affair for Currys
DURHAM, N.C. -- Seth Curry fondly remembers many of his one-on-one backyard basketball games with his older brother Stephen; even at ages 6 and 8, the matchups got so competitive that their mom had to break up their dust-ups.
Back then, the siblings were too busy trying to outplay each other to think about breaking records or recording history. Which is what makes being on the brink of doing both -- as a tandem -- so neat.
Seth, a senior at Duke, needs to score only 11 points at Boston College on Sunday to become half of the highest-scoring brother duo in NCAA Division I history.
Stephen, now a starting guard for the Golden State Warriors, scored 2,635 during his three years at Davidson. Seth, Duke's second-leading scorer, has 1,840 in four seasons at Liberty and Duke.
The Hansbrough brothers -- North Carolina's Tyler and Mississippi State/Notre Dame guard Ben, who are now teaming for the Indiana Pacers -- currently hold the top mark, with 4,485 combined college points.
"It's a weird little record -- but it's neat when you can do something that involves your family,'' Seth Curry said last week.
Plus, he added, grinning: "It's always good to pass a Carolina guy in anything. So it's fun."
Indeed, it looked for a while like the Currys' record-setting game might fall Wednesday night, adding another wrinkle to the always-raucous rivalry when UNC plays at No. 4 Duke.
But Curry, a Wooden Award candidate, has been on a roll of late, recording 20 or more points in his last three games despite playing with (and being limited in practice because of) a painful shin injury all season. So it's doubtful the mark will last that long.
The record itself may be more of asterisk than an exclamation point, more important to family history than the college basketball annals. But it's a telling asterisk, because in each case, having such a talented, competitive brother made each sibling so much better of a player.
Tyler Hansbrough, a 6-foot-10 forward who set the ACC career scoring record before winning the NCAA title in 2009, is the middle of three brothers.
Things got so competitive in that family early on that his parents had to pad the walls behind the plastic rims in the basement so that the boys, even as elementary schoolers, wouldn't hurt themselves or each other.
And their competitive nature only grew throughout their high school years. Older brother Greg, an inspiration after having surgery as a child to remove a brain tumor, played high school basketball and became a marathon runner.
Ben, a guard and the youngest of the Hansbrough trio, teamed with Tyler at Poplar Bluff (Missouri) High to win two state titles. But there were plenty of pick-up games when they all still competed against each other, too.
"I remember we were playing in one of the local gyms, and I went around him and scored a layup on [Tyler],'' Ben recalled in a 2005 interview with me when I worked for The News & Observer. "About four seconds later, after the play -- boom! -- he hits me in the mouth, chips one of my teeth. I was like, 'What was that for?' He said, 'Don't score on me again.'"
And of course, that made him want to score on Tyler even more, adding to the drive that made Ben a unanimous All-Big East selection his senior season at Notre Dame.
"I think the competition in the whole family, from dad, mom, brothers, everyone one down [had an impact],'' UNC coach Roy Williams said recently. " Their lifestyle was very competitive all day."
The Currys, meanwhile, grew up with basketball in their DNA.
Dell Curry, their dad, played 16 seasons in the NBA, "and in growing up with him, watching so many NBA players, we both got to take different things from him and add it to our games,'' Seth Curry said. "And then [Stephen and I] being so competitive even in those backyard pickup games, we were able to pick up things from each other, make each other better. So I do think I had that advantage."
Stephen and Seth still work out together during the offseasons, although they haven't played one-on-one in two years, because Stephen has been injured. "He's kind of ducking me,'' Seth joked, "but I look forward to a re-match."
Once the brothers' record is set, Curry said he hope it lasts for a while, to give the siblings something to grin about, to take pride in, together.
He even asked if this particular mark included more than two brothers, something that could theoretically put two other groups of siblings with Duke and UNC ties -- the Plumlees (Miles, Mason, Marshall, all Blue Devils) and the Zellers (Notre Dame's Luke, UNC's Tyler, Indiana's Cody) -- eventually into the mix.
He liked the answer: No.
"I'm sure it will be broken,'' Curry said of the mark he'll likely set Sunday, " but hopefully it lasts for a long time. It will be something for me and Stephen to look back on when we're done playing -- to look back on, laugh about, be proud of. It's good to just have something me and my brother can share."
Editor's Note: For a list by ESPN Stats & Info of the 10 best brother duos in college basketball history, click here.
Observations from a crazy Saturday
Don't change the channel. Ever.
In this sport, one last-minute switch could cost you. You might miss something epic, monumental. A classic.
I nearly did. Notre Dame had lost after all. Or so I thought. We all thought.
Right as I grabbed the remote, though, Fighting Irish wing Jerian Grant grabbed his cape.
After going 0-for-6 from the field up to that point, he scored 12 points in the final 47 seconds of regulation. Beast mode.
So a first overtime. And then another. And another. And another. And another.
The first five-overtime game in college basketball in four years. Notre Dame was down by eight points with 50 seconds to play and yet the Irish won 104-101 in five overtimes.
My observation? Wow. That's my observation. Should be yours, too.
Two teams battled and battled and battled. They fouled out. Eight of them in fact. Notre Dame lost Jack Cooley and Grant. Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng eventually fouled out for Louisville.
Reserves who hadn't played had to play. Grab the media guide. "Who's that guy?" Garrick Sherman isn't a complete unknown, but he had scored just six combined points in ND's last five games. He didn't play a second in regulation tonight, but still finished with 17 points and six rebounds. That's about all you need to know about this one.
But just in case you want some more fun facts:
• Louisville and Notre Dame combined to shoot 97 free throws (48 for UL and 49 for ND).
• The teams had the same amount of 3-point attempts (25) and offensive boards (19).
• The two teams took a total of 158 shots and 10 players scored in double figures.
• It was the longest game in Big East regular-season history.
• Eight players fouled out, but six players played 50-plus minutes.
I'm excited, thrilled and exhausted. I can't imagine how the combatants in both locker rooms feel right now.
Both groups deserve kudos because we all won.
Some other observations from Saturday night's games:
1. Bruce Weber deserves more buzz as a national coach of the year candidate. I remember Weber's final news conference at Illinois. His former team had just lost in the Big Ten tournament.
Weber stood among a fleet of reporters and tried to hold back tears. He was unsuccessful. It was certainly one of the most emotional postgame press events I've ever attended. He was terminated a few days later.
But how do you like Bruce Weber now? In a matter of months, he's gone from the guy who couldn't elevate the Fighting Illini to a level that appeased administrators and supporters to a man who's guided Kansas State to first place (8-2) in the Big 12. The No. 13 Wildcats' 79-70 victory was a gritty win -- their fourth in a row -- against an Iowa State squad that's played its way into the at-large conversation.
The Cyclones looked like a tourney team (49 percent from the field, 44 percent from behind the 3-point line). But the Wildcats played like champs, hours after Kansas suffered its third consecutive loss.
They forced 18 turnovers and went 9-for-18 from beyond the arc. Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez combined to score 42 points in the perfect setup for Monday's rivalry game at Kansas.
2. Steven Adams' development is the most important development in the Big East race. I'm not sure we solved anything within the Big East on Saturday. We know that the conference has a bunch of good teams. Notre Dame and Louisville settled things in five overtimes. Marquette beat DePaul. Georgetown defeated Rutgers.
But there's not much separation at the top. With weeks remaining in the regular season, I wouldn't be surprised if three or four squads finished with the title.
That's why I think Adams' offensive development could be a major factor in the title hunt. On Saturday, Pittsburgh's freshman 7-footer finished with 13 points and four blocks. He was an offensive and defensive presence for the No. 23 Panthers, who held No. 17 Cincy to a 30.8 percent clip in a 62-52 win.
In a league with a group of teams that are so close to one another, Adams' offensive growth is a factor. Pitt is good enough to win the rest of its games, especially with its final three matchups against squads (Villanova, South Florida and DePaul) that have combined to win eight conference games.
3. I don't trust New Mexico. The Lobos are ranked 19th in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. They're second in the Mountain West in scoring defense (59.2 points per game). They have wins over Cincy, UNLV and Connecticut. But they're also very unpredictable. They scored just 23 points in the first half of a 64-55 road loss to UNLV.
The loss wasn't that surprising given the Runnin' Rebels' diminished hopes of a MWC title. They were hungry. But every time I watch the Lobos, I see a different team. One night, I watch a program that justifies its first-place standing in the league. The next night, they seem disinterested.
With seven or eight games left for the teams in the conference, I still don't have a favorite. But I think the Lobos have the most complete squad, the team that should win it. But their inconsistent effort and execution makes it hard to latch onto that notion.
4. Michigan State finally looks like a Tom Izzo team. Road wins are scarce, even among the top 25. So the Spartans' 78-65 victory at Purdue wasn't insignificant. But Michigan State was tough in a hostile venue. And it held on.
When I saw MSU in Minneapolis on Dec. 31, the Spartans just didn't display the toughness that I'd witnessed with past Izzo teams. They just weren't feisty enough. I had my doubts. But they've matured. The veterans have stepped up. And they're playing the physical style that's fueled past success within the program. With that attitude, these Spartans can win the Big Ten championship.
5. What's happening in the Missouri Valley? Good question. Remember when No. 16 Creighton looked like the favorite for the conference title? Well on Saturday, the Bluejays lost 75-72 at home to Illinois State.
The same Illinois State team that lost its first six MVC games. Indiana State beat Southern Illinois by one. Wichita State snapped a three-game losing streak with a 29-point win over Missouri State.
Wichita State, Indiana State and Creighton are locked in a three-way tie for first place (each have 9-4 MVC records). Another wacky weekend for this league. Wow.
Things won't get easier for Kansas
Kansas coach Bill Self was in the postgame handshake line after his team's 72-66 loss to Oklahoma when he looked up and saw hundreds of students rushing the Lloyd Noble Center court.
His lips didn't move, but as he tilted back his head and rolled his eyes, it was obvious what Self must've been thinking.
"Are you serious?"
A victory over Kansas hardly seems like a big deal these days -- or at least not monumental enough for a court-storming.
Saturday's setback against the Sooners marked the third consecutive loss for the Jayhawks.
And it came just three days after a defeat against last-place TCU that some are calling one of the biggest upsets in decades.
KU certainly played better Saturday than it did against the Horned Frogs, but this is still a team that looks mentally frazzled and out of sorts, which is almost unthinkable for a Self-coached team.
Point guard Elijah Johnson missed a pair of easy layups in the waning minutes, and small forward Travis Releford shot a 3-pointer that barely nicked the front of the rim.
Even worse was that a KU squad known for its defense allowed a good-but-not-great Oklahoma team to shoot 45 percent from the field. Because of it the Jayhawks -- who have won eight straight Big 12 titles -- are now toting three losses in a row for the first time since 2005.
Things won't get any easier for Kansas on Monday, when No. 13 Kansas State visits Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats 59-55 in Manhattan on Jan. 22, but the two programs have gone in opposite directions since then.
To read all of Jason's notes from Saturday, click here.
Player of the Week: Nate Wolters
Team of the Week: Wisconsin
After a thrilling week, the Badgers are suddenly a viable team to win the Big Ten, or at least get a share of the title, with seven games to go. Wisconsin beat Iowa at home in double overtime. The Badgers were dead against Michigan after Tim Hardaway Jr. buried a 3-pointer. But the sensational play from Mike Bruesewitz off an inbounds pass to a streaking Ben Brust for a running 3-pointer forced overtime.
Brust then hit a 3-pointer in OT, and Wisconsin finished off Michigan with a 65-62 victory. The Badgers have four road games left in the final seven, so there is still plenty of work to do, but it's not a good idea to doubt this crew after what the injury-plagued Badgers have done this season. Wisconsin already won at Indiana and now has taken down Michigan. This was a season-changing week for Wisconsin and yet another indication that the Big Ten offers the most entertaining league in the country. That usually wasn't said about a league known more for its physicality than its finesse.
Five other teams worth noting
Indiana State: The Sycamores are now in the race for the Missouri Valley Conference lead after beating Creighton at home and getting a last-possession basket by Jake Odum to beat Southern Illinois. Indiana State has now split with Creighton and has a win over Wichita State. The shelf-life wins over Ole Miss and Miami in Honolulu make Indiana State a solid NCAA-bound team.
Pitt: The Panthers have been reborn in the Big East by beating Seton Hall at home Monday and then winning at Cincinnati. The Panthers are a solid NCAA-bound team now, but just as important, they are a threat to finish much higher in the Big East standings than originally projected.
Kansas State: The Wildcats are now atop the Big 12. Let that sink in for a second. Bruce Weber is ahead of Bill Self in the standings in advance of their Monday night meeting in Lawrence, Kan. Kansas State won at Texas Tech and then held off Iowa State by nine. The Wildcats haven't been spectacular this season but have been more than steady.
Michigan State: The Spartans entered Sunday tied with Indiana atop the Big Ten standings after beating Minnesota and winning at Purdue this past week. The Spartans have been beaten up in nearly every game but still find ways to win. They're a real dark horse -- not just to win the Big Ten (that's in reach) but to compete for a national title.
Memphis: The Tigers have been off the grid for quite some time, but they can deal only with the teams on the schedule in Conference USA. Yet, the Tigers are 9-0 in the league after sweeping a road trip to SMU and most likely challenger Southern Miss. The Tigers are 20-3 with the three losses being to VCU and Minnesota in the Bahamas and Louisville at home.
Editor's note: This edition is for games played from Sunday, Feb. 3, to Saturday, Feb. 9.
1. Lost amid the hoopla surrounding Notre Dame's five-overtime win against Louisville is that Rick Pitino's Cardinals lost for the fourth time in seven games. Of all the teams that were projected back in the fall to make the 2013 Final Four, Louisville is the one I figured would remain steady all season long. The Cardinals have size, quickness and depth and relish playing defense. Most of all, this team has enough junior and senior leaders to prevent these kind of dips from happening. Or so I thought. Louisville, which is 7-4 in the Big East, plays St. John's, South Florida, DePaul and Seton Hall in its next four games.
2. I'm still shocked that more coaches don't foul in the waning seconds of a game when an opponent has the ball and a chance to win. With the score tied, Wisconsin had fouls to give in the final seconds of regulation against Michigan on Saturday. But instead of fouling and throwing the Wolverines off rhythm, the Badgers simply stuck to their normal defensive strategy, and Tim Hardaway Jr. capitalized with a 3-pointer that gave Michigan a three-point lead. Luckily for Wisconsin, Ben Brust made a desperation 3-pointer from just past half-court moments later that forced overtime, and the Badgers eventually won.
3. It's tough to look at the Big 12 standings today and not tip your hat to Kansas State's Bruce Weber. At 8-2, the Wildcats sit alone at the top, one game ahead of Oklahoma and rival Kansas. And to think, many K-State fans groaned when the school hired Weber -- just two weeks removed from being fired at Illinois -- to replace Frank Martin last March. If the season ended today, Weber would be the hands-down choice for Big 12 Coach of the Year, and if his team defeats Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse on Monday, he'll be in the mix for National Coach of the Year.
Three things I learned
1. Never leave a college basketball game early; it is one of the ironclad rules of fandom. If there's even a remote chance of a come back, no matter how little time is left, you plant that butt in your chair and make sure. But Notre Dame fans got a reminder Saturday night, when Jerian Grant scored 12 points in the final 50 seconds of regulation to tie a seemingly victorious Louisville at 60, just before the two teams played not one ... not two ... not three ... not four ... but five thrilling overtimes in South Bend. There were plenty of empty seats, as too many fans lost faith and wanted to beat the traffic. I'm guessing they won't make that mistake again.
2. The foul-up-three debate is sure to rage on forever. It struck during the Wisconsin-Michigan game, when Michigan failed to foul guard Ben Brust before Brust could launch a game-tying half-court shot, one that miraculously went in. If there was ever a game in which the late-foul debate would seem sort of beside the point, it was this one. After all, it was a half-court heave. Nine times out of 10, that shot misses and Michigan wins the game. Because this was that one time, John Beilein had to field questions about his decision. Apparently, this is always going to be a thing.
3. It might be time to start worrying about Kansas. Oklahoma is playing solid basketball under Lon Kruger these days, and it would be a mistake to give all of the credit for their win Saturday to a reeling Jayhawks team. Even so, it's time to ask what's up with Kansas. Actually, the answer's obvious: Kansas can't shoot. It was abysmal at TCU and not a whole lot better in Norman on Saturday, when it shot just 46.3 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3 and made just 11 of its 20 free throw attempts. The Jayhawks have always been a stout defense with a merely good offense, but now that the offense is struggling -- in particular, point guard Elijah Johnson (he had another brutal day at Oklahoma, going 3-of-11) -- Kansas might lack the punch that we thought made it a national title contender.
This week's starting five
Nate Wolters (South Dakota State): The senior guard began the week by scoring 53 points (the most points any Division I player has scored since 2009) in Thursday's 80-74 win over IPFW. He was 9-for-14 from beyond the arc in that game. And he finished with 36 points and seven assists in an 88-83 loss at Oakland on Saturday. That's 89 points ... in one week.
Rodney McGruder (Kansas State): The senior guard led the Wildcats to the top of the Big 12 standings by scoring 22 points (four steals and five assists) in Saturday's 79-70 win over Iowa State. Kansas State is now 8-2 entering Monday's matchup at Kansas, a team that's lost its past three games. McGruder had 18 points and nine rebounds in a 68-59 win at Texas Tech on Tuesday.
Garrick Sherman (Notre Dame): The Michigan State transfer did not play one minute in regulation and hadn't come off the bench in two previous games. But he was a star for the Fighting Irish in their 104-101 quintuple-overtime win over Louisville, finishing with 17 points and six rebounds. A crucial tip-in during the fourth overtime led to the final chapter of the classic matchup.
Alex Oriakhi (Missouri): The Connecticut transfer had a monster Saturday for Frank Haith's program. He finished with 22 points, 18 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in Mizzou's 98-79 win over Ole Miss in Columbia. Oriakhi recorded 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in a 70-68 loss at Texas A&M on Thursday.
Chane Behanan (Louisville): Yep, the Cardinals lost to Notre Dame in Saturday's thriller. But any man who scores 30 points, grabs 15 rebounds, blocks two shots and plays 56 minutes deserves kudos. Behanan scored 13 points combined in the Cardinals' previous two games.
Maurice Watson Jr. (Boston University): Six points, 13 assists and two steals in a 79-58 win at Binghamton on Saturday; 14 points, eight assists and three steals in a 79-72 win over Maine on Tuesday.
Jordan Allen (Hofstra): Six points and seven steals in 22 minutes in a 65-56 win at UNC-Wilmington on Saturday, which snapped Hofstra's seven-game losing streak.
Siyani Chambers (Harvard): 18 points and 11 assists in a 67-65 win at Cornell on Friday.
Anthony Bennett (UNLV): 17 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in a 64-55 win over New Mexico on Saturday; 15 points and nine rebounds in a 64-55 loss at Fresno State on Wednesday.
Romero Osby (Oklahoma): 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal in a 72-66 win over Kansas on Saturday.