Adams: Vanderbilt needs appearance in finals

At least we've probably seen the last of Devan Downey. The South Carolina star had a monster second half to lead the Gamecocks to a 77-73 victory over Vanderbilt. Downey finished his career against the 'Dores with a 2-6 record, 22 ppg, and one final kick to the stomach.

"I was playing with the flow of the game," Downey said. "I was getting good looks but wasn't hitting shots, it was more mental. My coaches told me at halftime to keep shooting and every time I take a shot, I think it's going in."

He thinks every shot is going in? No kidding. Downey knocked down a couple ridiculously long shots, which took the air completely out of Memorial. His play helped South Carolina outscore the Commodores 50-38 in the second half. With Vanderbilt leading 53-43 with 12:21 to play, I don't think anybody in Nashville was giving the Gamecocks a prayer at a comeback. What transpired over the next eight minutes was a 25-6 run by South Carolina to secure the lead at 68-59.

"We did a great job of containing Downey in the first half, but he was making tough shots in the second half and we couldn't stop him," A.J. Ogilvy said. That's what great players do: they make big shots."

Others made big plays down the stretch for South Carolina, but Downey will always be remembered for the way he took over the game.

Who knows how this loss will affect NCAA seeding, but it sure didn't help matters. If this loss puts the Commodores down to a 4 or 5-seed, we'll all be remembering this game for a long time.

I've talked about this in the past, but it needs repeating. The longer you can avoid going against a 1-seed, the better off you are. A 3-seed keeps the top dogs away until the Elite Eight. Besides that, a 4 or 5-seed has tough games from day one. Vanderbilt could easily lose to any of the 12 or 13-seeds. The 14-seeds that a 3-seed would play are much more manageable.

"You are what your record says you are," coach Kevin Stallings said. "I'm not proud of it, but they've bounced back all season long. I don't have any concerns; if they don't want to play, they'll lose."

The good news is that the ‘Dores are saying all the right things before the SEC Tournament. Both Ogilvy and Jermaine Beal were asked how the loss to South Carolina will affect them before the tournament.

"It makes us hungry to win and since it's just downtown, we want to take care of business," said Ogilvy.

"It certainly humbled us and made us hungry," Beal said. "You learn from it and I hope it makes us hungrier and focused. Everyone tells us how good we are, but this is what March Madness is all about. It's not supposed to be easy."

The real disappointment from Saturday was the loss in Jermaine Beal's final game in Memorial. The senior leaves Vanderbilt will an impressive resume and in the process, became Vanderbilt's all-time victories leader. He has played in 90 Commodore victories and will hope to add a few more next week at the Bridgestone Arena.

"He's going to his third NCAA Tournament," Stallings said. "He's a poster child for what a college athlete should look like. He's ahead in school academically. He's a hard-working guy who wants to get better."

Anything short of an appearance in the SEC Finals would be a disappointment in my opinion. Vanderbilt has a nice draw, avoiding both Tennessee and Kentucky until the final game. They open play on Friday night against the winner of the Arkansas/Georgia game. I, like most Vandy fans, never want to see that Georgia squad again. A victory there would likely send the ‘Dores to a rematch with Mississippi State.

*Quick side note: Semifinal Saturday could be the hardest ticket to get in SEC Tournament history. With the potential match-ups of Kentucky/Tennessee and Vanderbilt/Mississippi State, ticket scalpers must be salivating.

If Vanderbilt can beat the Bulldogs again, Kentucky will probably be looming in the finals. The loss to South Carolina probably took a 2-seed off the table for the ‘Dores. I would hope just getting to the conference finals would lock up a 3-seed. On the flip side, a loss to the Arkansas/Georgia winner likely drops the ‘Dores to a 5-seed, and gives me a week a frustration to deal with.

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