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spectacular start for usc


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spectacular start for usc

downey leads usc attack, scoring 24 points with seven assists, three steals

by seth emerson

the state

published: november 10, 2007

devan downey darted forward, knocked the ball with one hand, used his other to grab the ball after one dribble, and a few seconds later turned the season s first steal into the season s first points.

and so the first play of downey s south carolina career and the first of the season set the tone for the first game, a 92-67 victory against south carolina state.

whether it did the same for the entire season remains the big question. either way, the first 20 minutes of the season were spectacular:

south carolina s first-half point total (55) was more than it scored in 10 different games last year, and equaled its output in last year s game against s.c. state. it was also the most the gamecocks have scored in a half since 1995.

i m just so proud of our guys to come out for the first game and to just show people that we re trying to make a change, downey said. just believe in us.

things tailed off in the second half, but the gamecocks still finished with more points than they had in any game last year (90, in an overtime loss to vanderbilt.)

it was south carolina s largest margin of victory since jan. 3, 2005 (also against s.c. state). it could have been worse, as the gamecocks jumped out to a 41-11 lead and led by as many as 35 in the second half.

and downey tied a career-high with 24 points, the most for a south carolina newcomer since larry davis scored 26 in 1995.

he set the tone, teammate zam fredrick said of downey. we go off him. he play hard, we play hard.

the performance was not without fault. in fact the first minute showed the gamecocks biggest strength - downey and his defense - and their biggest weakness - rebounding.

s.c. state got three offensive rebounds on that second possession (without scoring) and finished with a 48-39 advantage on the boards. it was 23-11 on offensive rebounds.

we re extended so far out on the perimeter with our defenders, our perimeter players have a long way to come back for the rebound, coach dave odom said. we ve got to look at that.

otherwise, odom called his team s performance energetic and prideful, with much of it coming back to downey.

the 5-foot-9 sophomore erupted for 16 points in the first half, and finished the game with seven assists and three steals. one of his assists came on a behind-the-back, fast-break flip to chad gray, who threw it down to bring the crowd to its feet.

then downey scored nine points during a run that expanded usc s lead from 25-9 to 41-11. that was the score with 8:22 still left in the first half.

the second half was quiet by comparison. but freshman sam muldrow drew a big crowd reaction when he ran the length of the floor to block an s.c. state layup attempt.

after the game, odom said downey was already warning his teammates in the locker room not to savor this win too much.

i was in there telling guys: this win was good, but let s move on, downey said. we came out of the gates running. from here to march we re just going to try and keep it up.

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