On a night when South Carolina (13-8, 4-3) was outscored in the paint and slightly out rebounded on each end of the floor, the Gamecocks found the range from long distance shooting 52.9% from long range.
Devan Downey was just Devan, scoring 33 points from inside, outside and midrange, but that's just what he does for Head Coach Darrin Horn. But each game requires that someone else bring a lunch pale to work as well. This time it was Sam Muldrow, who recorded his first career double-double with 19 points/11 rebounds to go with his 4 blocks. But it wasn't easy on this night as the Georgia Bulldogs (9-10, 1-5) were up to the task of a one or two man show as super sophomores 6'10" Trey Thompkins (18 pts, 6 rebs, 4 asts) and 6'4" sensation Travis Leslie (21 pts, 7 rebs, 2 asts) were virtually unstoppable for the majority of the game.
Leslie's performance included 5 thundering dunks that actually quieted the hostile crowd led by the now famous Garnet Army. The sophomores' efforts allowed Georgia to lead for most of the game to include a 9 point advantage with just under 9:30 to play in the game.
Georgia Head Coach Mark Fox mixed up defenses from an effective 3-2 zone, to a scrappy man-to-man, to a unprecedented triangle and 2, for the Bulldogs, forcing South Carolina to find some other answers for the young team from Athens. Coach Horn went to Steven Spinella in the first half and found quality minutes for the oncoming Freshman who hit two key 3-pointers to help keep the Gamecocks close in the opening half, along with a more impressive two-handed block of a Ricky McPhee, who had slipped loose on the baseline for an apparent easy reverse layup.
In a game where both teams were very efficient with the basketball, allowing only 9 turnovers per team, good shooting and rebounding would become extremely important and would eventually decide the outcome of the game. After struggling to gain rhythm in the first half, Ramon Galloway returned to the game with the Georgia Coach changing up his defenses with the triangle and 2 being his surprise wrinkle. The defensive change was designed to take Brandis Raley-Ross and Downey out of the offensive picture, but Coach Fox did not count on Galloway knocking down two key 3-pointers on 2-3 shooting in about a 3 minute span, to cut into Georgia leads and helping stop "mini" runs by the Bulldogs.
Not to forget the chess move by Coach Horn to attack the creative defense with a four guard lineup, once it was recognized. In 6'5" Lakeem Jackson (6 pts, 5 rebs, 5 asts) you have a guard that is easily transferable to the post with his physicality and leaping ability.
Georgia shot well for the game going 50% from the field and 46.2% (6-13) from the 3 point arc, and outscoring the Gamecocks in the paint 36-28. But the Gamecocks were even more impressive shooting 51.8% overall, with 52.9% (9-17) from 3-point land.
Following the key transitions, possessions, lead changes, mini runs, questionable calls and coaching strategies, this game ultimately came down to shooting, and long range was crucial.
With the game just about dead even or close in every contributing category, the game would ultimately be decided by a good shot by Downey (12-20, 4-7 from 3-pt) at the 50 second mark, who was efficient with the basketball and his shooting all night, and a strong rebound by Galloway following a missed foul shot by Georgia's Dustin Ware.
Both teams left points at the charity stripe, USC 11-18 (61.1%) and Georgia 11-17 (64.7%).
Key Game Stats:
Points in the paint-UGA 36,SC 28.
Points off turnovers-UGA 14,SC 18.
2nd chance points-UGA 16,SC 14.
Fast break points-UGA 6,SC 7.
Bench points-UGA 13,SC 12.
Score tied-7 times.
Lead changed-6 times.
Largest lead-UGA by 9 2nd-09:25, SC by 6
MVP - Sam Muldrow (19pts/11rebs/4blks) 35 minutes
Mr. Clutch - Devan Downey (33pts/3asts/2stls/1to) 36 minutes
Good Hands - Lakeem Jackson (6pts/5rebs/5asts) 30 minutes
1st Half Hero - Stephen Spinella (2-2 3-pointers/1blk/1ast) 13 minutes
2nd Half Hero - Ramon Galloway (2-3 3-pointers/2rebs/1ast/1stl) 16 minutes
A former basketball player and coach with over a decade of national experience, who later founded player development programs before expanding his knowledge and experiences to media services and outlets, Duane "The Shot Doctor" Everett can be heard every weekday in Columbia as a host and analyst on ESPN Radio Columbia's "The Zone" on 93.1 FM from 3-6 p.m.
Other entries such as this one can be found on Everett's blog, "The Shot Doctor".
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