- Tuesday, January 26 2010 -
Kentucky - 62 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 1st by AP and 1st by ESPN/USA Today]
South Carolina - 68 (Head Coach: Darrin Horn) - [Unranked]
Halftime Score: Kentucky 29, South Carolina 26
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|Arkansas 101 - 70|||||Vanderbilt 85 - 72|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
UK falls flat in first No. 1 defense
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The players in the Kentucky jerseys may not be the same but Devan Downey apparently owns the boys in blue all the same.
Downey scored 17 of his 30 points in the second half as South Carolina rallied from several deficits to make UK's reign as No. 1 a short one, beating the Cats 68-62 in front of 18,000 delirious fans at Colonial Life Arena. Fans mobbed the court as the final seconds elapsed, sending UK's players and coaches ducking for the cover of the tunnel and pondering what went wrong.
"It's a great lesson," UK coach John Calipari said. "You can say it all year but sometimes it takes an 'L' before they believe you.
"We've had this happen in other games but we were just good enough to win it. For our team, this is what happens when you have young guys who think they are going to win it at the end of the game. We were lucky to be undefeated, but some of those (previous opponents) couldn't make basketball plays at the end of the game. You put yourself in this position if you don't give yourself the gap you should have."
UK (19-1, 4-1 SEC) led most of the first half but couldn't control Downey or the Gamecocks' relentless board work, giving up 22 second chance points on 20 offensive rebounds and watching Downey add to his overflowing career highlight reel against the Cats.
The 5-foot-9 senior jitterbug zipped in and out of UK's defense no matter the defender (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Liggins all spent long stretches on him) with most every possession culminating in either an improbable bucket or trip to the free throw line for Downey or one of his misses being put back by a teammate.
"My thinking all year long has been if it's close and we've got No. 2 then we've got a shot. I think that proved out," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said.
"Everyone wanted to make a big deal out of me and John (Wall) but let's be honest, no one gave us a chance," Downey added. "If you guys know me I think I'm the best player every time I step on the floor."
UK was made a believer - again. It was Downey who hit a shot with three seconds left to beat UK in Rupp Arena last season and then keying a rout in Columbia last February.
"He made the tough shots," Calipari said. "We said if he made tough shots it was going to be hard and he made about three tough ones at tough times. We wanted him to take tough shots and he'll make some but at the end our big guys stood straight up and he just dribbled right by them. We put him at the line and the kid isn't going to miss free throws.
An unofficial count had UK at 23 missed shots from three-feet or closer, including three uncontested dunks/lay-ins in the second half. The gave Downey all the daylight he needed as Carolina erased a 47-42 deficit over the final 9:33 to pull the stunning upset.
Earlier in the day the Cats had gathered around a phone in a room just off the arena floor to speak with President Barack Obama, who promptly suggested the Cats would roll past South Carolina when told of the night's opponent. Clearly, the prediction proved off the mark. It was the only thing that rattled Downey all night.
"I'm aware but I'm kind of scared to mention something about the President," Downey said. "I mean, that's Obama, so I'm not saying anything about Obama."
And the Cats aren't saying anything about Downey after yet another virtuoso performance.
DeAndre Liggins dives for the ball with South Carolina's Devan Downey
DeMarcus Cousins fights USC's Sam Muldrow for the ball