USC battled back from an eight point halftime deficit to knock off LSU 67-58 Wednesday night at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. The win improves the Gamecocks to 2-0 in the SEC, their best start in the league since 1997. They are 11-5 overall.
LSU came into this game with something to prove. The Tigers were embarrassed at home against Alabama over the weekend and they were ready to give USC their best shot.
Early in the game it looked like the Tigers might have a chance to take one from the Gamecocks. They were finding easy baskets in the paint and they led for most of the first half by capitalizing on dunks and uncontested layups. The Tigers shot 54% from the floor and would have had an 11 point lead at the break if not for a Devon Downey 3 at the buzzer that cut the lead to eight at the half. That seemed to trigger a spurt in the momentum in favor of the Gamecocks and it carried over into the second half.
Darrin Horn post game news conference
What can else can you say about Downey? He is taking this undermanned team and putting them on his shoulders. He finished with 29 points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists. His play, and more importantly his energy, triggered the Gamecocks rally. This was a tight game until the final four minutes when Downey took over with gritty defense and gutsy shots. He made six of his 12 three point attempts and was 10-22 overall. This kid is impressive to watch and even though he started his career at Cincinnati, you have to put him among the all-time greats to play at USC.
Devon Downey postgame media interview
Downey is impressive but he isn’t doing it alone. Fellow senior Brandis Raley-Ross chipped in 12 points and made a couple of big shots late to help the Gamecocks pull away. With Dominique Archie gone, Raley-Ross is doing his best to be the consistent second scorer the team needs. He was only 5-13 shooting but his leadership down the stretch was evident and he gave the team what it needed to pull away from the pesky Tigers.
Brandis Raley Ross postgame media interview
The Gamecocks have a unique style of play. They like it up tempo and aren’t afraid to give up some quick baskets in order to keep the pace going. They also aren’t afraid to jack up the shots. The Gamecocks took 63 shots to the Tigers 44. They shot and eye popping 32 three pointers. The Tigers shot seven and made just one. Carolina also won the battle on the boards and outrebounded LSU 38-32. Simply put, the Gamecocks were the more aggressive, physical team and they wore down LSU.
This is a nice win for USC. They announced attendance was 12,103 and the fans were excited and into the game. As I stated above, the Gamecocks style of play is, if anything, entertaining to watch. If the Gamecocks can keep winning the crowds will grow and so will the prospects of a strong second season for Horn and company.
The road gets tougher from here though. Vanderbilt will be in town Saturday to provide Carolina with its first true SEC test of the season. Vandy won at Alabama 65-64 Wednesday night and is 13-3 and 2-0 in the SEC. If the Gamecocks can get by the Commodores and jump out to a 3-0 start in the conference things will be very interesting heading into the two road game at Ole Miss (1/20) and Florida (1/23).
Saturday’s game against Vanderbilt will tip off at 6:00 at the Colonial Life Arena.