Clemson drops USC in hardwood rivalry 72-61

Clemson keyed their game on shutting down Devan Downey, and the Tigers were successful in doing so, riding the strategy to a 72-61 win in the rivalry game. The timing wasn't particularly good for the Gamecocks senior point guard, as 14 NBA scouts were in the stands to watch him and Clemson's Trevor Booker, and it wasn't good for USC, as they lost their sixth straight basketball game to the Tigers.

The last time Clemson faced South Carolina on the hardwood, Devan Downey went off for 37 points against the Tigers. Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said his team spent a lot of time in practice dedicated to keeping Downey out of paint. "Our defense on Devan was outstanding," Purnell said. "When you show the tape edit of all 37 he got on us last year and a few more, the guys know this guy is pretty good."

Downey did not score his first basket until the game was three quarters over and only made three of fifteen baskets he attempted, the last two late in the game when the contest was all but decided. Downey played his usual "never-say-die" game, helping his teammates in every way he could, pulling down four rebounds, and making three assists and five steals.

"In a big game like this, just to see him struggle to play well, period, was a little surprising," USC coach Darrin Horn said. "But again, as we've been talking about, I don't think it's about any one guy. I think collectively, we didn't have enough guys do what they needed to do."

From an intensity standpoint, the basketball battle between the two fierce arch-rivals Sunday was everything such a contest should be – a no-holds-barred, unrelenting fight to the end, with neither side taking their foot off the gas for even a second. From an offensive output standpoint, it was 39 outside and even colder inside, with the Gamecocks shooting an ice storm from beyond the three point line, making only six of twenty-two attempts.

The Gamecocks kept it close in the first half despite a Tiger hailstorm from beyond the three point line, trailing by only 3 points at halftime. The fact that the usual leading scorers for both teams were scoreless at halftime reflected the defensive intensity of the game – the Gamecocks' Devan Downey was 0-6, and the Tigers' Trevor Booker was completely held in check by the tenacious South Carolina defense, being denied a single shot attempt.

Without injured starters Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes, the Gamecocks were shorthanded, and played like it. Senior Brandis Raley-Ross had 16 points and freshman Ramon Galloway had 11, but the Gamecocks were outrebounded 47-36, and struggled to score, especially in the second half when despite making numerous opportunities for themselves off of steals and stalwart defensive efforts, they just could not get shots to fall.

The Carolina football team dominated the Tigers on both sides of the ball eight days ago, but their hardwood counterparts couldn't pull off a sweep, despite never quitting. Purnell spoke of the rivalry aspect of the game, saying, "It is a game we point to."

"We're not making any excuses. I don't think it's ever good news to lose, I don't think it's ever good news to lose to a rival," Horn said. "That's unacceptable to us. But I think we're going to see the film and see that we did what we knew we needed to do. We played pretty well and probably we're on the positive ends of things. We had too many breakdowns defensively and on the offensive end, where we took some quick shots that we didn't need to. Once they stretched it out to eight or ten there, we had a hard time getting over the hump."

Former USC coach George Felton was one of 14 NBA scouts there at the game. Sitting one seat over from this reporter, he was clearly scouting Downey, as he made notes on all Downey's moves.

USC drops to 6-2 on the season, while Clemson improves to 7-2. Both schools now go an extended break during the final exams period at the end of the semester. The Gamecocks do not play for ten days, when they will return home to play Richmond on Wednesday the 16th.

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