Amazing. Incredible. Unreal. Unexpected. Those are just a few of the words that come to mind after watching USC take down unbeaten and top ranked Kentucky 68-62 in front of a packed house of 18,000 at the Colonial Life Arena Tuesday night in Columbia. It is the first time in school history the Gamecocks have knocked off the number one team in the country.
USC coach Darrin Horn post game press conference
So how did they do it? As usual, you have to start with Devon Downey. Kentucky entered the game with a 19-0 record and with well hyped freshman and future number one NBA draft pick John Wall, but Downey was the best player on the court. He scored 30 points on 29 gutsy shots to carry the Gamecocks to arguably their biggest win in school history. Wall, while impressive and deserving of his accolades, could not match Downey and finished with 19 points.
For the record, Wall wasn’t even the best Wildcat on the court Tuesday night. That honor goes to fellow Wildcat freshman DeMarcus Cousins. He finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Horn called him the best interior player he’s seen in his 15 years of coaching.
Downey did what he’s been doing all season. He is a big reason why the Gamecocks won, but he’s not the only reason. For the first time in three games Downey received significant help from his teammates. Senior guard Brandis-Raley Ross scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds. Also, Sam Muldrow was a factor for the first time in weeks. He had nine points, 11 rebounds and five blocked shots.
Devon Downey and Brandis-Raley Ross at the post game news conference
You also had guys like Johndre Jefferson (eight rebounds), Austin Steed (six points and a huge blocked shot late), and even Stephen Spinella (no points but gave the team a gritty 15 minutes off the bench) make contributions that led to the upset.
Kentucky is a great team. Despite this loss I suspect they will easily win the East and the SEC title and probably the SEC Tournament and maybe the NCAA Tournament. They are young, but they have as much talent as I’ve seen in person in a long time. They didn’t have their best stuff Tuesday night though. That isn’t to take anything away from USC’s win because the Gamecocks were a big reason why the Wildcats struggled. Credit goes to Darrin Horn and his staff for doing what 19 other teams have tried and failed to do this season.
Kentucky coach John Calipari post game presser
It was a special atmosphere in the Colonial Life Arena. It was jammed back and loud from start to finish. I’ve watched almost every basketball game that has been played in that arena and I can tell you I don’t think there has ever been a crowd or an energy like there was on Tuesday night. Kentucky had its share of Big Blue representing, but the Gamecock fans gave their team a clear home court advantage.
The USC athletic department will be getting a fine from the SEC for the fans charging the court after the game but somehow I don’t think Eric Hyman is going to mind writing that check. His basketball program made history.
USC has won three straight over Kentucky. The win Tuesday night improves their record to 12-8 and 3-3 in the SEC. The Wildcats drop to 19-1 and 4-1 in the league. The Gamecocks return to action Saturday at home against Georgia.
Quote of the day:
“I’m aware but I’m kinda scared to mention something about that because that’s the President. I don’t want to have nobody knocking at my door this morning. You know, I ain’t got nothin’ to say about Obama.”
-Devon Downey on President Obama’s comment to Calipari and the Wildcats before the game that they “should be all right” against USC.