The nation tuned in to see Stephen Curry.
Now everybody is talking about Gordon Hayward.
The Butler freshman finished with a career-high 27 points and nine rebounds in the Bulldogs' 75-63 victory at Davidson in which he outshined Curry's star while introducing himself to a country that doesn't see enough Horizon League basketball. Despite the hostile environment and big stage, Hayward looked comfortable from start to finish. He made six of 12 field goal attempts and 11 of 12 free throws, further proving that his decision to focus on hoops instead of tennis was a wise one.
And he was a pretty good tennis player, too.
"This is the first time he's really been playing basketball for 12 (consecutive) months because he's been such a good tennis player for so long," Butler coach Brad Stevens said Saturday afternoon by phone, noting that his 6-foot-8 wing spent many summers playing tennis instead of basketball, which explains why Hayward was an unheralded recruit according to most scouting services. "He's a good player and an easy guy to coach. He's a great kid and a great student, and it's fun to be around guys like that."
As for Curry, well, he looked out of sorts.
He played for the first time since spraining his ankle last weekend and appeared to have no rhythm or feel, though it would be wrong not to give Butler some credit for making things difficult. No question, the Bulldogs did a great job on the All-American. But Curry missed a lot of shots he usually makes and actually started 0-of-8 from the field before finishing 6-of-23 with 20 points and seven turnovers.
Still, Stevens never felt comfortable, even late.
"Steph is so good," he said. "You're just sitting there saying, 'Please don't be another chapter in this book.' Up 13 with four minutes to go or whatever, that's what you're thinking. 'Please don't be another chapter in this book.'"
To Butler's credit, it was not.
Instead, the Bulldogs exited Belk Arena with a nice road win.
And they looked like a team worthy of keeping their national ranking.