Vols clamp D on DD

Trying to contain South Carolina's Devan Downey with one defender is an exercise in futility ... so the Tennessee Vols used five.

That strategy worked so well that the Vols cruised to a 79-53 victory Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena.

"It was team defense," Tennessee point guard Bobby Maze said. "Everybody on the team guarded Devan Downey today. It wasn't me or Melvin (Goins) or J.P. (Prince). It was everybody.

"If you try to guard Downey just by yourself, you're in trouble. We had everybody on the floor guarding him at all times - stripping and ripping. He's going to get to the basket and make plays because he's a good basketball player. He's going to get his points, so you just try to contain him and make him shoot contested jump shots."

Downey, who averaged 31.6 points in seven previous SEC outings, managed just one basket and 5 points in Saturday's first 17 minutes - by which time the Vols held a 27-12 lead. He scored his team's last two buckets before intermission but managed just two free throws in the first seven minutes of the second half.

By the time Downey hit his first basket of the second half, a 3-pointer with 12:19 to go, the Vols led 51-30 and the Gamecocks' doom was sealed. The fact he finished with 26 points was moot, since 13 came from the foul line and 15 came after the Vols had built a 25-point lead at 49-24.

Ultimately, Tennessee's outstanding team defense on Downey kept South Carolina from ever getting in the game.

"One guy can't guard him; you've got to guard him with a team," UT coach Bruce Pearl said. "The way you hedge him off the ball screen is different than other guys you play against."

The Vol coach said his team defended Downey much as it defended Xavier point guard Drew Lavender, who it limited to 2-of-8 shooting and 8 points in an 82-75 win at Cincinnati in 2007.

"We guarded Lavender the same way," Pearl said. "We kind of cuffed him ... just tried to build a wall, knowing that when he gets into the paint - when he gets through you - what happens? Fouls, offensive rebounds."

Downey got plenty of fouls, ultimately making 13 of 14 free throws. But Tennessee kept his penetrations from creating offensive rebounds for Carolina. The Gamecocks got just one rebound off the offensive glass in the first half and 11 for the game.

Downey finished just 5 of 20 from the field. But, as Pearl noted: "If he missed 15 shots, those are 15 offensive rebound opportunities for South Carolina, and they do a great job on the offensive boards. They're fourth in the league in offensive rebounding."

Although he's a step slower than the mercurial Downey, Maze generally kept pace with the Gamecock speedster on Saturday. And, at 6-3, Maze used his six-inch height advantage to make a statement by blocking Downey's first perimeter jump-shot attempt of the game.

"It felt great," Maze said, flashing a quick smile. "But he's a good basketball player and he's so tricky with the ball; he can look one way and go the other."

Maze hoped to distract Downey with some chatter but his efforts failed.

"I finally made him talk on the court, but it was nothing bad," Maze said. "It was like 'I got you this time ... I got you next time' and things like that."

The Vols "got" Downey this time, for sure. But it took all five of them.


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