Coaches feeling defenseless vs. Downey

USC point guard is named SEC player of the week after two 30-point games

semerson@thestate.comFebruary 2, 2010 

University of South Carolina's Devan Downey celebrates making a basket and drawing a foul against Georgia in the first period at the Colonial Life Arena.

C. ALUKA BERRY/CABERRY@THESTATE.COM

The coach who next has to figure out how to try to contain Devan Downey sounded less than excited at the prospect on Monday.

"He obviously is in a complete and total zone," said Bruce Pearl, whose Tennessee squad plays host to the Gamecocks on Saturday. "He does whatever he wants to do on the basketball floor. No individual on the floor or team has been able to stop him."

The solace for Pearl is he doesn't have to begin game-planning for the USC point guard until Friday, a day after his team plays at LSU. Of course, the way Downey is playing, Pearl might already have started.

Downey was named SEC player of the week on Monday, a formality after he averaged 31.5 points in wins against No. 1-ranked Kentucky and Georgia.

Downey has scored 30-plus points in five of seven SEC games, including the past three. He had 30 against Kentucky and 33 in Saturday's one-point victory against Georgia.

The senior is averaging 31.6 points per game in league play, which puts him on pace for one of the best SEC seasons in two decades.

Shaquille O'Neal averaged 27.8 points per game in 1991 for LSU, and a year later Mississippi's Joe Harvell averaged 26.3. Last season Kentucky's Jodie Meeks, on the strength of a 55-point game against Tennessee, averaged 24.9.

The record is safe: Pete Maravich averaged 47.2 for LSU in 1970.

But Downey's performance certainly is turning heads.

"Devan Downey is fun to watch," Pearl said. "He is an amazing, amazing player."

Kentucky coach John Calipari brought up Downey's performance against his team, including a couple of "ridiculous" shots down the stretch. The highlight was a baseline jumper, while being fouled, with two seconds on the shot clock that gave USC the lead for good with four minutes remaining.

"Downey just went nuts at the end of the game and made impossible shots," Calipari said. "They were bad shots, and he made them anyway."

USC coach Darrin Horn thinks the difference in his team's performance the past four games - including the second half at Mississippi, when the team rallied, and a near-win at Florida - is due in large part to Downey's supporting cast contributing more.

But the linchpin is still Downey - and his ability to come through in the clutch.

"He wants to be in that moment," Horn said. "We've all been around some really good players that are capable of some really impressive things. But they don't necessarily relish that moment. But he wants to be in that moment, and he wants to be that guy that is taking that shot or making that play."

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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