What's up with Downey?

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl manages to contain most big-time scorers by keeping the ball out of their hands. That won't be an option Saturday against South Carolina, however.

As the team's senior point guard, Devan Downey has the ball in his hands on every single play. And what he has done with the ball in his hands lately is downright mind-boggling.

The 5-9, 175-pounder is averaging 31.6 points per game in seven contests against Southeastern Conference opponents. To put that in perspective: The next highest-scoring SEC player is Georgia's Trey Thompkins at 20.0 points per game in league action.

For a little guy, Downey clearly is having a huge impact.

"He obviously is in a compete and total zone," Pearl said. "He does whatever he wants to do on the basketball floor. No individual or team has been able to slow him down or stop him."

True. Check out Downey's first seven SEC performances:

- Jan. 9: He was 11 of 23 from the field, 4 of 9 from 3 and 7 of 10 from the line en route to 33 points in an 80-71 win at Auburn.

- Jan. 13: He was 10 of 22 from the field, 6 of 12 from 3 and 3 of 6 from the line en route to 29 points in a 67-58 defeat of LSU.

- Jan. 16: He was 12 of 21 from the field, 3 of 6 from 3 and 8 of 9 from the line en route to 35 points in an 89-79 home loss to Vanderbilt.

- Jan. 20: He was 7 of 20 from the field, 2 of 5 from 3 and 9 of 10 from the line en route to 25 points in a 66-57 loss at Ole Miss.

- Jan. 23: He was 12 of 25 from the field, 4 of 11 from 3 and 8 of 9 from the line en route to 36 points in a 58-56 loss at Florida.

- Jan. 26: He was 9 of 29 from the field, 2 of 5 from 3 and 10 of 11 from the line en route to 30 points in a 68-62 upset of top-ranked Kentucky.

- Jan. 30: He was 12 of 20 from the field, 4 of 7 from 3 and 5 of 5 from the line en route to 33 points in a 78-77 defeat of Georgia.

For those keeping score at home, Downey has hit 45.6 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from 3 and 83.3 percent from the line over the past seven games.

Asked if he could recall a player dominating games the way Downey is, Pearl had to go back 30 years to a guy who played college ball from 1979-82.

"The last guy I remember was a young man at Boston College named John Bagley," Pearl said. "John was the Player of the Year in the Big East Conference in the early '80s and went on to have a very successful NBA career. They're both undersized and tough as nails."

Although Downey has exploded since SEC play began, he played quite well in pre-conference action. His overall numbers include a 22.9 scoring average and a 3.05 steals-per-game average. Both figures lead the SEC. He ranks sixth among league players in free-throw percentage (81.9), sixth in 3-pointers made (2.19 per game), seventh in assists (3.57 per game) and seventh in minutes played (32.9 per game).

Some opponents have tried mightily to put the clamps on Downey. Others have conceded his points and focused on shutting down his teammates. Pearl won't say which approach he'll take.

"It does provide a dilemma," the Vol coach said. "I've taken both approaches. I think you've still got to make his looks difficult. Obviously, if it's close late - and it will be - you know where they're going.

"It presents great challenges."

Especially when the guy has the ball in his hands on every single play.

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