Cooling down Downey

Tennessee will be trying to cool down the SEC's hottest player today when South Carolina's Devan Downey visits Thompson-Boling Arena for a 6 p.m. tipoff.

Downey, a 5-9, 175-pound senior point guard, is averaging 22.9 points per game on the season but a sizzling 31.6 points per game in SEC play, including 33.0 in his last three outings. He scored all but 20 of his team's points in a 58-56 loss at Florida on Jan. 23, hit for 30 in a 68-62 upset of No. 1 Kentucky on Jan. 26 and hung 33 on Georgia in a 78-77 win on Jan. 30.

In addition, Downey will be coming off six days' rest when he faces a Vol squad that posted a taxing win at LSU just 45 hours earlier.

A transfer from Cincinnati, Downey has faced Tennessee five times previously. Although he generally has played well, he has yet to beat the Vols. Here's a recap of those performances:

- 2008 at Columbia: He hit 9 of 17 field-goal tries and finished with 24 points, 1 assist and 4 turnovers in an 80-56 UT win.

- 2008 at Knoxville: He hit 1 of 9 field-goal tries and finished with 2 points, 9 assists and 3 turnovers in an 89-56 UT win.

- 2008 at the SEC Tournament in Atlanta: He hit 10 of 20 field-goal tries and finished with 26 points, 5 assists and 2 turnovers in an 89-87 UT win.

- 2009 at Knoxville: He hit 9 of 20 field-goal tries and finished with 19 points, 6 assists and 1 turnover in an 82-79 UT win.

- 2009 at Columbia: He hit 6 of 15 field-goal tries and finished with 16 points, 6 assists and 4 turnovers in an 86-70 UT win.

On a positive note, Tennessee may be better equipped to contain Downey than it was a year ago. Starting point guard Bobby Maze, a 6-3, 195-pound senior, is a better defender than he was in 2008-09, and backup Melvin Goins, a 5-10, 195-pound junior college transfer, is coming off his best game as a Vol. He contributed 5 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists in 21 turnover-free minutes Thursday night at LSU. Goins might be UT's best bet to cool down Downey.

On a negative note, Tyler Smith was Tennessee's star in last season's two defeats of South Carolina - scoring 20 points in the game at Knoxville and 22 in the rematch at Columbia. Smith is no longer around, of course, having been dismissed from the UT program on Jan. 8.

On another positive note, the Vols' most recent outing against South Carolina was among their best performances of the Bruce Pearl era. They shot 54.7 percent from the field, 45.5 percent from 3 and killed the Gamecocks 44-22 on the backboards en route to an 86-70 win at Columbia last March.

NOTES: Tonight's game will be televised by ESPN.... Besides Downey, South Carolina's only other double-figure scorer is 6-2 guard Brandis Raley-Ross at 10.2 points per game.... Rounding out the Gamecock starting five are 6-5 Lakeem Jackson (6.7 points per game), 6-8 Austin Steed (3.5 points per game) and 6-9 Sam Muldrow (9.7 points per game, 5.4 rebounds per game).... Muldrow ranks second among SEC players in blocked shots at 3.4 per game. He had 5 in SC's upset of Kentucky.... Pearl is 8-2 vs. South Carolina, including 4-0 at Thompson-Boling Arena.... Counting two games when he was head man at Western Kentucky, Gamecock coach Darrin Horn is 0-4 vs. Pearl.

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