Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday's Shootaround: South Carolina beating Kentucky highlights a fantastic night of hoops action

South Carolina 68, Kentucky 62: No one gave the Gamecocks a chance in this one. Not once, during the chatter surrounding Kentucky's rise to No. 1 as the only undefeated team in the country, did you hear about South Carolina being the team to end their streak. South Carolina noticed too, and they came out with a chip on their shoulder.

Playing in front of one of the best atmospheres we've seen in college hoops this season, South Carolina kept it close during the first half, ending the first 20 minutes with an impressive drive and reverse finish by (who else?) Devan Downey to cut the UK lead to three. After Kentucky scored the first bucket of the second half, USC immediately went on a 13-2 run to open up a 39-33 lead. Kentucky would respond, however, with John Wall, who had 6 points and 2 assists in a 14-3 run that gave Kentucky the lead back. It looked like the Wildcats were ready to run away with this thing, but Devan Downey had other ideas.

He kept attacking the bucket, scoring five straight points to spark a 14-4 to give USC a 56-51 lead. DeMarcus Cousins would answer with a three-point play, but Downey made a name for himself as he scored seven straight points on insanely difficult shots - he hit a 15 footer, and the foul, while having his legs taken out from under him; he drove left and hit a tough floater over three Kentucky defenders; then, he spun away from John Wall before splitting two UK defenders and banking in a runner in traffic. UK would make a run and cut the lead to 62-61 on a tough drive, and-one, by John Wall, but South Carolina would hit their free throws down the stretch.

Downey was fantastic last night. There's no question about it. But there was much more to this win than just his heroics late:

  • South Carolina won this game despite shooting just 34.6% from the floor and handing out just 6 assists the entire game against the No. 1 team in the country. How often will you see that?
  • A lot of credit must also go the way of Brandis Raley-Ross, who finished with 17 points and hit a number of clutch shots during the second half run.
  • Likewise, USC fans should be giving props to Johndre Jefferson and Sam Muldrow. Muldrow finished with 9 points (including a couple of late buckets), 11 boards, and 5 blocks, while Jefferson went for 5 points and 8 boards in just 17 minutes. Part of the reason the Gamecocks were able to survive this game was their work on the offensive glass, and these two kids combined to get 9 offfensive boards. While DeMarcus Cousins did go off for 27 and 12 last night, Jefferson and Muldrow played a big role is slowing down Patterson and Orton and limiting the second chance opportunities the Wildcats got.
  • It also should be noted that Kentucky simply blew it. Their youth and inexperience, especially in the back court, was exposed as Wall and Bledsoe forced, and missed, a couple drives to the rim, combining to go 8-27 from the floor with 9 turnovers to just 7 assists. The most notable turnover came with under a minute left, as Bledsoe threw a backdoor pass to Wall and went off Wall's fingertips. Darnell Dodson missed a wide-open, 1-on-0 layup with 5:30 left. Patrick Patterson, the supposed leader of this team, finished with a line similar to that of Jefferson: 5 points, 8 boards, 2-4 from the floor. Patterson disappeared in this one, and it cost UK a game, thier first loss..
The three other key games of the night all ended in exciting fashion:
  • Kansas State 76, Baylor 74: Jacob Pullen had been struggling of late, capped by an 11 point performance in the Wildcat's home loss to Oklahoma State. But he responded in a big way last night, outplaying Tweety Carter to the tune of 25 points, including 6-7 shooting from three, as K-State pulled out a win in Waco. Just as important as Pullen's hot night was LaceDarius Dunn's off night. Dunn, who had been 26 ppg in Big XII games, was just 3-13 from the floor for 9 points. He also may have cost Baylor the game. After a Pullen three made it 74-70 with 1:04 left, Tweety Carter answered with a jumper. Following a steal by Dunn, Carter found him for another jumper, tying the game with 19 seconds left. But at the other end, Dunn fouled Pulled 45 feet from the basket on a reach-in, sending the K-State senior to the line. He made both with 8.2 seconds left for the win. Carter led the Bears with 23 points and 4 assists.
  • Michigan State 57, Michigan 56: Manny Harris came off the bench to score 16 points, sparking a rally late in the game that gave the Wolverines a late lead over the Spartans. But once again, Kalin Lucas stepped up to lead MSU. He finished with just 12 points, but scored seven in the final five minutes, including a 12 foot pull-up with 3.4 seconds left that won the game. It was the second straight game that Lucas had hit a shot in the final minute to win a game. Raymar Morgan carried the Spartans in the first half, and finished the game with 20 points and 9 boards on 8-9 shooting.
  • Rhode Island 65, Dayton 64: In a back-and-forth second half, Rhody overcame an 11 point deficit to take a five point lead with seven minutes left, only to see the Flyers answer with a 10-0 run. Rhode Island would come back and retake the lead, setting up a back-and-forth finish. URI took a 62-61 lead, but Dayton's Chris Johnson was fouled shooting a three and hit all three free throws with 15 seconds left. But at the other end, Marquis Jones buried a three of his own to give Rhode Island a huge win in the A-10.
Other notable scores
  • Boston College 75, Clemson 69: The Tigers, playing without starting PG Demontez Stitt, lost their third straight game. The Eagles jumped out to a big first half lead, and held on as Clemson made a run in the second half. Reggie Jackson had 18 and 7 assists for BC.
  • Maryland 81, Miami FL 59: The Canes have the most overinflated record in the country. They were absolutely run off the court in a game that wasn't even as close as the final score indicated. Greivis Vasquez led the way with 16 points and 9 assists.
  • UAB 65, Tulsa 55: The Blazers got 19 points and 12 boards from Elijah Millsap, and also hit 13 straight free throws late in the second half as they went on an elongated stretch without a field goal, nearly blowing a 16 point halftime lead. With the win in the battle of C-USA undefeateds, UAB moves into sole possession of first place.
  • Minnesota 65, Northwestern 61: Blake Hoffarber scored 20 points, including four threes in the final seven minutes, as Minnesota picked up a much needed win. The middle of the Big Ten is pack with mediocrity. Illinois, Minnesota, and Northwestern are going to be battling for the 5, 6, and 7 spots in the league, of which there may only be one at-large bid.
  • UNC 77, NC State 63: The Heels used a 13-0 run early in the second half to help blow this open and avoid losing their fourth straight game. Deon Thompson had 20 points in the win.
  • West Virginia 62, DePaul 46: After having a 20-4 lead cut all the way to four points, WVU went on an 8-0 spurt early in the second half to put this one away.
  • Marquette 82, Rutgers 59: Jimmy Butler scored 16 points to lead Marquette to a win they really needed.
Tuesday's Best
  • Devan Downey. Duh.
  • Quincy Pondexter scored 27 points and grabbed 11 boards in a 123-76 win over Seattle, who finished the game with just four players after having six people foul out.
  • Jarrod Jones had 21 points and 12 boards, including the bucket that forced the first OT, as Ball State beat Miami OH in 2OT.
  • Josh Slater had 26 points and Adnan Hodzic added 25 and 12 in a win for Lipscomb.

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