Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gamecocks: No offense, Mr. President

Few people gave South Carolina much of a chance against top-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night. And when Gamecocks guard Devan Downey heard that even President Barack Obama was one of those folks, he tried not to take it personally.

Obama had said Kentucky "should be all right," against South Carolina earlier Tuesday. That made its way to the Gamecocks locker room.

"I'm scared to say anything," said Downey, minutes after South Carolina stunned Kentucky 68-62 at Colonial Life Arena behind his 30 points. "That's the president. Somebody might be knocking on my door in the morning. I'm not going to say anything about Obama."

Downey nearly single-handedly brought down Kentucky, scoring almost half of South Carolina's baskets (nine of the Gamecocks' 22) and making 10 of 11 free throws.

"I knew my team needed me to score," said Downey, who is from Chester, S.C. "I couldn't be gun shy."

Kentucky coach John Calipari, who also blamed South Carolina's offensive rebounding (the Gamecocks had 20 offensive boards) on the defeat, said his team did what it could against Downey, who's now averaging 20.9 points (31.6 in SEC play).

"(But) you don't want to put him on the foul line, which we did," said Calipari, whose team lost for the first time in 20 games. "And we knew he was going to take tough shots."

The game was billed as a showdown between Downey and Kentucky freshman point guard John Wall. Wall (was held in check for much of the game until late, when he scored Kentucky's final eight points. He also had a shot at the rim emphatically blocked. He finished up with 19 points, but had four turnovers to go along with two assists.

At least one South Carolina player wasn't surprised that Wall was held in check.

"I've known the kid for a while," said senior guard Brandis Raley-Ross, who played at Gaston Day. "He played against my little brother in AAU ball when he was in ninth grade. So I don't buy all the hype." -- David Scott