LEXINGTON, Ky. There’s nothing special or different about the 3-point arc at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena.
But in Thursday’s NCAA tournament second-round match between Davidson and Marquette, the 3-point arc will be guarded differently by each team.
The No. 3 Golden Eagles will guard the 3-point line to stymie Davidson’s sharpshooters while the No. 14 Wildcats will try to entice Marquette to shoot long-range and deny passes into the middle.
“Well, we can’t shoot,” Marquette coach Buzz Williams said flatly. “They’ve proven they can. (The 3-point line) is important. It’s been important every game for us. Every team we’ve played knows we can’t shoot.”
Williams’ squad ranks 17th nationally in 2-point field-goal percentage at 52.8 percent but 312th from long-range at 30.1.
That’s why Williams emphasizes what he calls paint touches. It’s a philosophy that offense is derived from touches by post players in the paint, which allows for high-percentage shots, forcing the defense to rotate or even kick the ball out to the perimeter for a jumper.
Part of what makes for a complete game in Williams’ mind is having 72 percent of his team’s possessions be paint-touch derived, he said.
“Buzz prides himself in paint touches, and they’ve clearly got the people who can catch the ball in the paint,” Davidson coach Bob McKillop said. “So without a doubt, we’re going to be relying upon team defense. That’s been the framework upon which we’ve structured all of our defensive schemes, group of five guys playing defense as one.
“Being in a stance on the ball is terrific, but you better be in your stance off the ball as well.”
Marquette averaged 32.4 points in the paint per game this season while Davidson held opponents to 25.2. Hidden in that statistic, though, is the level of competition each team regularly played. In the Southern Conference, Davidson was able to have its way with most opponents in the post while Marquette had to work harder against Big East competition.
Not since an early January meeting against Duke have the Wildcats played a team stacked with athletes the caliber of Marquette’s, but senior forward Jake Cohen said the team can still draw on those early-season experiences.
“We played really tough games earlier in the year and they prepared us for games like this,” said Cohen, mentioning Duke, Gonzaga and New Mexico in nonconference play. “That’s what prepares us for a game like (today) and you don’t forget what it’s like playing against those kind of guys.”
The Wildcats could take advantage of Marquette guards’ penchant for turnovers before Marquette’s post players can get a touch in the paint. The three Golden Eagle guards averaged a combined 6.6 turnovers per game compared to Davidson’s JP Kuhlman, Chris Czerapowicz and Nik Cochran’s combined 3.8 per game.
On the other end of the floor, those three Davidson starting guards shoot 41.1 percent from behind the arc. Cochran alone shoots better than 55 percent from deep.
And it’s not just Wildcat guards, either. Williams heaped praise upon Cohen, saying he’s as skilled as any player taller than 6-foot-10 in the country with his 44 percent clip from distance.
When asked to compare Davidson to another a team Marquette played in the Big East, senior guard Trent Lockett couldn’t come up with one.
“I think we agree as a team they’re better than a 14 seed,” Lockett said. “They’re a very good team and we cannot take them lightly.
“They’re unique in that their big men step out and shoot 3s, and they’re very well rounded in that aspect. I think it will be a good test for us.”