Saturday, March 6, 2010

Downey Ignites Upset In Nashville

Final Stats       SEC Tourney Bracket

South Carolina (15-15, 6-10)  needed Devan Downey to have a big day to have any chance to win at Vanderbilt (23-7, 12-4).  And big game he had, scoring 26 points, 22 in the second half to ignite a come from behind victory over the #13 Vanderbilt Commodores.  Vandy's loss to Kentucky was their lone blemish at home until the Gamecocks rallied behind Downey to record a 77-73 victory in Nashville.  

This victory comes at the right time, as the Cocks will return to Nashville to open SEC tournament play Thursday.  Downey was not alone in the scoring as Sam Muldrow scored 20 points to go with 9 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals.  Downey leading the league in scoring and steals, added a couple of steals in this contest, along with one big steal and score during his second half highlight run.  Downey struggled in the first half shooting 2-9 for 4 points.  With USC trailing 35-27 at the half, and trailing by 9 points with just over 9 minutes to play in the ball game, Downey went on a scoring flurry hitting back to back threes and the run, comeback and 50-point second half was ignited.  South Carolina built a 7 point lead in about 4 minutes with a little over 5 minutes to go before Vandy tied the game at 69-69 with just under two minutes to play.  But the Gamecocks were more like "Fighting Gamecocks", as they could see the kill in sight and denied the host team and crowd the chance to regain control of the game.  Downey would come down and immediately hit a three and give the visitors the lead for good.

The game would wind down with Head Coach John Stallings' team cutting the lead to 2 points, but South Carolina would make free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.  South Carolina locks up the #5 seed and will likely play Auburn or Alabama in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.

Other contributing factors in the game would be Muldrow, scoring 13 points in the first half, and Lakeem Jackson's first half penetration and scoring in the paint.  Darrin Horn's ball club would play physical throughout the game, which led to USC out rebounding the taller Commodores 29-24 (9-4 offensive).    In the earlier meeting won by Vandy, USC was out rebounded 39-24.  Horn never stopped coaching, and obviously the team kept believing and executing, and when Downey began scoring the Commodores went cold and appeared "shell-shocked" by the Downey scoring outburst.  Vanderbilt Senior Jermaine Beal would see his senior day and 21 point, 8 rebound, 2 assist performance tainted by  Downey and company.  A.J. Ogilvy added 15 points and Jeffrey Taylor 13 for Vandy.

South Carolina's Season Near The End

South Carolina (14-15, 5-10) travels into Nashville on a six game (1-7 over the last eight games) losing streak that will place the Gamecocks in a disappointing regular season finish unless they can find a way to upset the Commodores in the regular season finale.  #19 Vanderbilt (23-6, 12-3) is 14-1 at home losing only to the Kentucky Wildcats this season.  South Carolina will need a victory in Nashville and a couple of wins in the SEC tournament to extend the season.  Vanderbilt has a size advantage and recorded a severe rebounding advantage in the earlier meeting when Head Coach John Stallings' team out rebounded the Gamecocks 39-24 and shot better than 60%, with many of those shots around the basket.

South Carolina Head Coach Darrin Horn must find a way to get more post presence and board work to have a chance playing in Memorial Arena on Saturday.  South Carolina has been able to win only one game on the road this year in the SEC, which is their lone road victory of the season on a team's home floor.

This game may very well be about pride and resilience as the Gamecocks are on the verge of recording a losing season similar to the final two seasons of Dave Odom, former head coach at 14-16 and 14-18 respectively.

The season, with the loss of Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes, has become a devastating end to the career of Devan Downey, who was hoping to lead his team into the NCAA tournament in his final year.  Downey, a candidate for many individual accolades, wanted to end his college career playing in the NCAA tournament a feat he has never experienced during his journey from Cincinnati to South Carolina after a one year all freshman season with the Bearcats.  Downey has given his entire arsenal of offense in an attempt to carry a team that lacked offensive weapons, but his efforts fell short as the conference season prevailed and teams found ways to neutralize the performance and disruption of Downey's multi-faceted scoring.  It appears Devan will have to settle for personal accolades and recognitions for his body of work at South Carolina.

South Carolina will have to rely on a miracle season end to see post season play.  A really disappointing situation after a season that started with so much promise.