- Saturday, January 31 2009 -
South Carolina - 78 (Head Coach: Darrin Horn) - [Unranked]
Kentucky - 77 (Head Coach: Billy Gillispie) - [Ranked 24th by AP and NR by ESPN/USA Today]
|A. J. Stewart||5||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||0||0|
Halftime Score: Kentucky 37, South Carolina 36
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|Mississippi 80 - 85|||||Mississippi State 57 - 66|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Downey does it
Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks were good. Devan Downey was better.
The quicksilver South Carolina point guard hit a high arching floater from the left side of the lane with 3.2 seconds remaining to lift the Gamecocks to a 78-77 victory at Rupp Arena. Downey scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, including eight in the final 3:37, to send Kentucky to its second straight defeat.
The wild, see-saw affair came down to the final 30 seconds, as Perry Stevenson had two free throws rattle out with a 77-76 lead and 29.6 ticks on the clock. The odd number score allowed South Carolina to spread the floor and let Downey penetrate for the winner.
"We were going for the win," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "That's our style. That was the call. Devan made a great play and a great shot."
The Cats had erased a 63-58 deficit to take a 77-74 lead with 41.2 seconds remaining but could not hold off the Gamecocks. It was the first Southeastern Conference home loss for UK coach Billy Gillispie and only the second time South Carolina had won in 23 trips to Lexington.
On the same week the Cats entered the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time all season they dropped two critical conference games to fall behind in the league race. It was yet another game where offensive rebounds allowed and turnovers given away crushed the Cats' chances.
"We're just not playing very tough," Gillispie said. "There are always going to be things in games you're not pleased with but we've taken two major steps backwards. There's no excuse for it. We haven't been playing perfect by any stretch of the imagination but it's much more magnified when you lose. Unless we find some toughness somewhere it's going to be a long second half of the season because we are getting whipped in the lane big time."
South Carolina had an abundance of the very attribute Gillispie was seeking from his own team. The Gamecocks fell behind by 10 early in the second half only to rally with a 19-4 run fueled by open three-pointers and five UK turnovers in six trips down the floor. Downey, who had played second fiddle to fellow guard Zam Fredrick to that point, exploded for nine points in the run.
It was just the opening act for one of the league's top guards.
Tied at 66 with five minutes remaining, the Cats converted four consecutive dunks to edge in front 75-72 with 1:17 left in the game. After the teams exchanged two points each South Carolina inbounded the ball and found Dominique Archie near midcourt on the press, who then drove uncontested to the rim to pull the Gamecocks within a point.
Stevenson was fouled and sent to the line for two free throws, where the Cats had been 24-of-27 in the game to that point, but the 74 percent shooter had both his attempts rattle in and out, setting up South Carolina's game winner.
"I didn't even think twice about it, I just let them go," Stevenson said. "They just rattled out. I've been in college for three years and seen Jodie do it a bunch so I don't think there were any nerves. Hopefully I can forget about the two free throws I missed. I hope I can get it out of my mind quickly."
After calling their final timeout with 22.2 seconds remaining the Gamecocks gave the ball to Downey and put the other four players bear the baseline. When the clock dipped under eight seconds Downey broke left and rose up over Meeks just outside the lower block. Meeks' last ditch three-pointer from just inside midcourt slammed off the rim as the buzzer roared, sending UK to its second straight loss.
"We had no answer," Gillispie said of Downey. "We had nobody who wanted any part of him. He made a tough shot but I thought we gave him a little too much space."
The lack of answers, in all areas, appears to be a trend the Cats need to reverse immediately.
Michael Porter (#13) misses a layup attempt
Darius Miller tries to break up a Devan Downey pass
South Carolina's Sam Muldrow gets his hand on the ball, but can't stop Jodie Meeks (#23) from dunking the ball