No letdown: Downey denies 'Dawgs

Star guard hits the game-winner as USC avoids a post-upset hangover

Special to The StateJanuary 31, 2010 

Sam Muldrow makes his way around Georgia's Albert Jackson.

C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM

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    Devan Downey is having a stretch like no other USC player has ever experienced in SEC play.

    The senior has three consecutive games with 30 or more points and has scored at least that many in five of seven SEC games. He has six career 30-plus points game in SEC play, which equals the combined number of 30-point games by South Carolina players since joining the SEC during the 1991-92 season.

    Downey is averaging 31.6 in SEC play this season.

    Tre Kelley and B.J. McKie recorded two each and Larry Davis and Carlos Powell had one each.

    "Obviously, Dwyane Wade was a special player to be around," Horn said of when he as an assistant coach at Marquette. "But to see a guy who's the guy that has to be stopped as options one, two and three and still gets 30 points at this level is pretty special."

    Coaches vs Cancer. In support of the Coaches vs. Cancer cause, the South Carolina coaching staff donned polo shirts and sneakers. Georgia's coaching staff also wore sneakers.

    Muldrow and the Dawgs. Muldrow had his previous career-high of 18 points against Georgia last year in Columbia. Muldrow also added four blocks, two steals and an assist.

    Hot shooting. Both teams shot better than 50 percent. USC had its highest field goal percentage in SEC play at 51.8 and its highest 3-point percentage of the season (9-of-17, 52.9 percent). Downey led the way by making 4 of 7 3-pointers.

    - Chris Dearing

There was no rushing the court from the Garnet Army after game - just a sigh of relief.

South Carolina trailed for much of the game, but Georgia could not make the plays it needed down the stretch as the Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs 78-77 on Saturday night at Colonial Life Arena.

Devan Downey scored the final two of his 33 points on a driving layup with 50 seconds remaining to give USC (13-8, 4-3) the one-point victory. He dribbled through the Bulldogs defense and banked it on a layup from the right side.

"I didn't think our team was particularly great, but if you are going to win games in this league and at this level, you are going to have to find ways to get some wins on nights you aren't your best," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said.

Downey would not have it any other way.

"I want the ball in my hands with an opportunity to make a play," Downey said.

But the Gamecocks had to sweat through the final seconds and were on defense for most of the remainder of the game.

Dustin Ware got free from Downey, but the USC senior fouled him with 34 seconds remaining. It was a non-shooting foul, the Gamecocks' sixth of the second half.

Trey Thompkins, who finished with 18 points, had a chance to give Georgia (9-10, 1-5) the lead but he missed a reverse layup. Albert Jackson collected the rebound and called timeout with 19 seconds remaining.

The Bulldogs dribbled down the clock and looked like they wouldn't be able to get a shot off on a loose ball, but Downey was whistled for a foul on Ware near the Georgia bench with 3.5 seconds to go.

Ware, who came in as the Bulldogs' leading free throw shooter at 82.8 percent, missed the front-end of the one-and-one, and Ramon Galloway corralled the rebound. Georgia didn't have a player on the box, and the ball hit the floor before Galloway grabbed it and was fouled.

"We were out of timeouts and Devan is so good we were concerned he would go coast-to-coast," Georgia coach Mark Fox said. "I had great confidence in Dustin, he's an 80 percent shooter, and I thought they would go down. That's why we had the one guy there."

Galloway missed the front-end of a one-and-one with less than a second remaining, but Georgia didn't have time to get off a shot.

Downey scored nine of USC's final 11 points to finish with 33 points and three assists. But a big lift came from Sam Muldrow.

The junior recorded his first career double-double with 19 points and 11 points. That was a new career high in points and he was one short of his career-high in rebounds - which he set in Tuesday's victory against No. 1 Kentucky.

"I believe he can play like that all the time," Horn said. "I've been accused of having too high expectations of our player,s but I think Sam is skilled and athletic."

The Gamecocks also received lifts from freshmen Stephen Spinella and Ramon Jackson. Spinella hit back-to-back 3's in the first half as the Gamecocks trailed 38-36 at the break.

Jackson came up big when Georgia was extending the lead to nine in the second half. He hit back-to-back 3's to keep USC within striking distance. His second made it 57-53, but the Bulldogs scored six straight for its largest lead of the night.

South Carolina did the bulk of its comeback with a small lineup. Muldrow was the only big man on the floor with Galloway, Lakeem Jackson, Brandis Raley-Ross and Downey for much of the final six minutes.

"We got some key contributions and big shots from two freshmen, Stephen in the first half and Ramon in the second half," Horn said. "Those are the things we are going to have to continue to do if Devan continues to do what he is doing."

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