Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Devan Downey's gunning a necessity

By now, everyone has seen them.

An and-one, 15 footer off of an inbounds play with two seconds left on the shot clock as someone was taking out his legs. A tough, lefty drive, beating two help defenders before hitting a runner off the glass. Spinning away from a ball-screen, driving right before coming back left, splitting two defenders with a little hop-step to find space in the paint for an eight-foot floater.

Given the time (three straight possessions in the final four minutes), score (South Carolina clinging to a slim lead), and opponent (No. 1 and then-undefeated Kentucky), those three buckets from Devan Downey are as tough, as gutty, and as clutch as any that you will see this season.

In fact, if you look back at Downey's night, just about all of the nine shots that he hit could have made Sportscenter.

The issue that a lot of people are going to have isn't with the shots he made.

It will be with the 20 shots he missed on the night.

Its true that Downey hit three of the biggest shots of his life down the stretch last night. Its also true that those three shots were instrumental in the Gamecock's win.

But the question that a lot of people have asked is whether or not South Carolina would have been in a position to need those three shots if Downey had been more selective earlier in the game.

The answer too that question?

No, they wouldn't have.

Because Kentucky would have been blowing out South Carolina.

For those that haven't followed the Gamecocks very closely this season, they have lost two starters, both double digit scorers. 6'7" small forward Dominique Archie was an NBA prospect and the best defender on South Carolina, in not in the SEC, before suffering a season-ending knee injury. 6'7" power forward Mike Holmes was averaging 11 points and 5 boards before being dismissed from the team.

What's left?

Some good role players. Some athletic bigs. A lot of young guys with potential. But not much scoring.

That's why Downey shoots so much. Because if he doesn't, where are the points going to come from? Brandis Raley-Ross is a good spot-up shooter, but that's about it. Sam Muldrow is an active, athletic big man, but his offense consists of dunks and putbacks. Lakeem Jackson has some potential as a slasher, but he's a freshman. Johndre Jefferson and Austin Steed are both capable big men, but are far from what one would call a scoring threat.

The bottom line?

Devan Downey is good enough that a tough, low-percentage shot going 1-on-2 or 1-on-3 is a better shot than asking the Gamecocks role players to create their own looks.

So while that 9-29 is an eyesore, and 30 points on 29 shots is not going to put you on Gasaway's or Pomeroy's all-efficiency teams, keep in mind that without Downey playing this way, South Carolina would not have beaten Kentucky.

Sometimes efficiency takes a backseat to winning.

I'm sure Gasaway and Pomeroy would both agree.

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