Three years ago former University of Arkansas head basketball coach Stan Heath decided to take a commitment from Sean McCurdy instead of continuing to pursue Devan Downey.
Neither Heath nor McCurdy are around anymore, but Downey sure was on display Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena.
Downey, a 5-9 transfer from Cincinnati, poured in 28 points, 6 steals and 4 assists whule playing all 40 minutes to lead South Carolina to a 70-66 upset win over Arkansas before 17,883 stunned fans.
"I thought he was fantastic," noted current Razorback head coach John Pelphrey, who didn't know Arkansas was once on Downey. "We knew coming through the door that this young man was un-guardable by yourself. He made all of his free throws (9-of-11), made a couple of really tough shots."
Sonny Weems - pretty unguardable himself, had a career-high 28 points and 9 rebounds, Steven Hill a season-high 15 and Charles Thomas 11 for the Razorbacks (13-4, 2-1), who were trying to get to 3-0 in league action for the first time since 1998.
"To have a chance for the first time in 11 years to go 3-0 in league play, a chance to be in first in the (SEC) West and to be receiving votes for the Top 25, I thought we would come out and really have some pride and be ready to play," Pelphrey said. "...If you are care at all what's going on at Arkansas or have any clue of what's happened in the past, it's pretty unique to be a part of something like that."
Patrick Beverley, battling a dislocated jaw, had 5 points and 12 rebounds in a gutty effort.
South Carolina head coach Dave Odom, whose team lost by 24 at home to Tennessee on Saturday, was obviously pleased with the win.
"This was a great win for our team," Odom said. "We played one of, if not the best team in the Southeastern Conference. SEC basketball is crazy. If I say anything about my team, they did everything possible to prepare for Arkansas. I couldn't ask for more. We were able to hit some big shots."
The Razorbacks had 19 turnovers to just 10 for South Carolina.
"Nineteen is too many," Pelphrey said. "There are some turnovers that are better than others, believe it or not. The ones that lead to baskets you don't get a chance to defend kill you. Those scramble plays usually swing the game. We didn't handle it well."
Zam Fredrick had 14 points and Dominique Archie 10 for the Gamecocks (9-8, 1-3).
"We talked about it for several days," Pelphrey said. "A lot of people are going to lose to Tennessee. A lot of people are going to lose to Vanderbilt. So it wasn't as if South Carolina was not capable of playing good basketball. We knew that. If anything, things that happen to them early on in conference play did nothing more than bring them together as a basketball team."
Weems' 3-pointer got Arkansas – who had trailed by 7 - within 66-64 with 50.7 second left in the game, but Downey then put it away with a basket and two free throws around another Weems' bucket.
"We were tired of the media focusing on the negative side of our season, so all we could do was come out, play hard and try to pull one out."
Downey was electric in the first half with 14 points and 5 steals, including one that resulted in his two free throws and a 31-30 lead for his squad with 2:13 left in the half.
Brandis Raley Ross' lay-up made it a 10-0 run soon afterwards, but Townes' two free throws got Arkansas within 33-32 at the break.
South Carolina took its largest lead of the game at 56-49 on a Downey basket with 9:53 left in the game.
Arkansas did rally behind three consecutive baskets by Weems, one by Charles Thomas and a free throw by Steven Hill to tie it 58-58 with 4:50 left in the contest.
"I thought tonight our fans, our arena was going to bail us out again," Pelphrey said. "The magic and mystique of our program with the Razorbacks and the crowd, I thought it was going to happen again."
But Downey was fouled by Beverley on a 3-point attempt, promptly knocked down 2 of the 3 and the visitors never trailed again.
"He had a great game," Odom said of Downey. He's got a lion's heart. He's smart as a whip and he does things for his size, he shouldn't be able to do."
Arkansas shot 47.2 percent from the field to South Carolina's 43.1 and won the board battle 40-24, but the Gamecocks hit 8 3-pointer to just a trio for the Razorbacks and also hit 80 percent of their free throws to the home team's 68.4 percent.
The Razorbacks head back out on the road to face Georgia on Saturday at 6:05 p.m.
"We can hang our heads going into Georgia and lose," Weems said, "or we can learn from this take it into the Georgia game with us."
Photos by Marc Henning
Sonny Weems goes up for some of his career-high 28 points on Wednesday night.
Steven Hill throws down a dunk as South Carolina's Sam Muldrow defends.
John Pelphrey shows his displeasure during the game.
Charles Thomas fouls Devan Downey on his way to the basket with Zam Fredrick also involved.
Gary Ervin drives on Sam Muldrow.
Patrick Beverley tries to knock the ball aawy from Devan Downey.
South Carolina 70, Arkansas 66
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