Downey leads the way in win over LSU

With a 29 point effort in Wednesday night's SEC home opener against LSU, Devan Downey became the 9th Gamecock ever to score 1,500 points in his career as South Carolina moved to 2-0 in conference play. The Gamecocks have won their first two conference games for the first time since the 1996-97 season, when they went on to capture the conference crown.

For the Gamecocks, it's still better late than never.

Yet another huge second half, along with an even bigger performance from senior point guard Devan Downey allowed South Carolina to overcome an 11-point halftime deficit, and take down LSU, 67-58.

"I don't know who y'all had as player of the game, but I've got our crowd," said Horn. "I thought they were tremendous in that second half run, especially our students, just absolutely phenomenal."

There wasn't much to be said for the USC offense in the first half, shooting only 30% from the field. Even facing a low-scoring Tiger squad, the Gamecocks attempted seventeen 3-pointers, and made just five. LSU took the lead at halftime 35-27, despite not converting a 3-point attempt themselves in the first half.

It was LSU's ability to score in the paint that gave them the advantage at the break, with forward Storm Warren leading the way with 15 points. The Tigers were able to convert easy baskets inside and did not have to rely on the long jumper to score points. Carolina, it seemed, was determined to beat Trent Johnson's team from beyond the arc, despite their lack of success early on.

From the get go it seemed that Darrin Horn's South Carolina squad was in for a battle. Playing against an LSU team that was quick and athletic gave the Gamecocks their first real challenge of SEC play. Even after missing their first three shots, the Gamecocks were quickly able to get back into game with 3-pointers from Devan Downey and Sam Muldrow.

The Tigers of LSU proved adept at stretching the court with their speed, despite a starting lineup that came into the game only averaging 49 points per game. Even though their defense was able to contain LSU star Tasmin Mitchell early on, it was guard Bo Spencer that struck early and often for the Bayou Bengals.

With shots falling at the start of the second half, the Gamecocks were able to go on a quick 10-2 run in the opening minutes to tie the game at 37 apiece. Brandis Raley-Ross ignited the streak with two big 3-pointers, followed by a quick steal and lay-in by Devan Downey. After reaching his historic milestone early on, Downey continued to lead the Gamecocks with 12 first half points.

"We're just playing hard and trying to win," added Downey. "We know if we play hard for 40 minutes we could win the game."

It was again their insistence on shooting the deep basket that defined the Gamecocks in the second half and in the game overall. After making their initial charge early in the second frame, USC was able to rely on some clutch defense and a better shooting effort from the floor to keep the game close.

Horn said he was proud of the resiliency his team displayed yet again in the second half.

"We're really proud of our guys, just the effort and the fight that they showed," said Horn. "That's really what we want, and that's all we can control is how hard we play. The biggest key in the second half was (that) we made some shots."

A 40-point second half helped beat the Tigers, and despite their continued dependence on the long range shot, the Gamecocks were able to shoot 40% from beyond the arc in the second half.

After the Gamecocks took their first lead of the second half at 51-49, they went on an 11-1 run to put the game away, and LSU was never able to seriously threaten again.

Downey finished the game with 29 points, and helped key the decisive run with about five minutes remaining in the game. The point guard who made history for his career hit several fade away jumpers and energized the crowd with his defensive tenacity.

"Nothing he does surprises us," said Horn in describing his all-star guard. "That's what makes special players special is they can do what they want to do, and he did that tonight."

After playing for the entire game at a high level, Raley-Ross said he felt like the Gamecocks are moving closer with each game.

"We're getting there," said Raley-Ross. "We keep pressing and attacking them defensively and we're going to be fine. It's a mentality. It's a mindset. That's us. That's South Carolina right there."

Another home win for USC moved the Gamecocks to 8-1 in games at Colonial Life Arena this year.

Raley-Ross chipped in with 12 points, and freshman Lakeem Jackson added 8 points and 8 rebounds to help lead the Gamecocks.

Trent Johnson's LSU team fell to 9-7 and 0-2 in the conference with the loss. Up next for the Gamecocks are the Vanderbilt Commodores, who come into Colonial Life Arena for a matchup this Saturday at 6 p.m.

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