NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Devan Downey was not acting like someone whose college career was over.
USC's star point guard said, unprompted, that he hoped to get "one more shot" to play another game.
That's a long shot. The NIT has never selected a team with a losing record, and the Gamecocks are 15-16 after falling to Alabama in the first round of the SEC tournament.
As for the other options - the College Basketball Invitational and College Insider.com tournament - Downey did not seem aware of their existence.
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Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn said last week his team would only play in the NCAA tournament or the NIT. But Downey seemed open to anything.
"I'd just like to play," he said. "I like my teammates, coaches. So just keep playing."
Assuming his USC career is over, Downey finished fourth on the program's scoring list, nine behind John Roche. Downey has 1,900 points. Including his freshman year at Cincinnati, Downey has 2,303.
He also is the program leader in steals, steals per game and field goals attempted.
"Devan's obviously a terrific individual player," Horn said. "I think it could be a long time before you see somebody individually do the kind of things that he's been able to do in terms of not only the numbers that he's produced and the way he's stolen the basketball, but just the way he plays. He's an exciting player."
Not finishing strong
Senior guard Brandis Raley-Ross did not go out the way he wanted.
The team's second-leading scorer was held scoreless Thursday. He missed all seven shots, including two 3s and committed a team-high five turnovers.
"It was probably my worst game ever. So I'm bummed out right now," he said. "Just trying to relive all the good moments. But I played like (expletive) today."
Keying on Downey
Horn said a big reason for Alabama's comeback was its ability to deny Downey the ball. Alabama coach Anthony Grant said that was a big part of his late-game strategy.
That was especially true on one of the game's key plays, a five-second call after a USC timeout. The Gamecocks had called timeout to set up the play, but could not get the ball in.
"We knew they were going to try to get the ball to Devan Downey, and we tried to deny him," Grant said. "We had some success doing that, and our guys did a good job of pushing out. It wasn't anything specifically we said during the timeout that we were going for a five-second count, but we wanted to keep the ball out of Downey's hands."
Playing the paint
The Gamecocks made a point of trying to score inside early. Their first three offensive sets were to Jefferson and Muldrow.
The first shot of the game was an airball from Jefferson. It was an omen, as the teams combined to start 2-for-17 from the floor.
But the Gamecocks kept going inside, having success the first 30 minutes. Center Sam Muldrow had 13 points in the first half - but none in the second.
"The first half, I felt we did a good job. We were an attacking team," Horn said. "The last few weeks we focused on that, and finally the Vanderbilt game it clicked. When we got the ball inside the paint or played it inside out on post touches, it made us a better offensive team and a good defensive team."
By the numbers
Freshman Lakeem Jackson's 14 rebounds (including 10 offensive) were a season-high. But he was 1-for-4 from the line, leaving him 16-for-59 (27 percent) on the season.