Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Downey's performance assures a third straight week with a new #1

He may be just 5-9, but Devan Downey is a big playmaker. From anyone who saw South Carolina beat top-ranked Kentucky without two of their best players, there would be no disagreement.

The Gamecocks built a 39-33 lead early in the second half, but a 14-3 run from Kentucky gave the Wildcats a five-point lead, a stretch that would take the wind out of many average, under-manned teams pushing to upset the nation's final unbeaten. President Obama was finally right on about something, having warned Ken

But Downey wasn't about to let that happen. He scored the next five points to tie the game at 47 and, when it was tied at 51 minutes later, Downey scored seven in a row to give South Carolina a 58-54 lead. And after an Eric Bledsoe turnover, multiple Kentucky defenders tried to stop Downey at the top of the key but left Austin Steed wide open underneath the hoop for an easy layup off the feed from Downey.

A John Wall three-point play with 40 seconds left cut the lead to one but he would miss a key free throw 30 seconds later, as Kentucky found themselves down four with 10 seconds to play and the ball. Turns out President Obama was finally right about something: Kentucky should have been worried about the Gamecocks at home. And while Wall will likely be the top pick in the NBA Draft, tonight belonged to Devan Downey.

He was just 9-for-29 to get his 30 points, but the degree of difficulty on the three shots he hit after the game was tied at 51 was extremely high. Shots off an inbound with two seconds on the shot clock while getting fouled and off-balance runners in the lane dropping in high off the glass speak to the fact that if you don't block a Devan Downey shot, there is always a chance it goes on no matter what it looks like. He muscles his way into the lane and to the hoop unlike a typical 175-pound guard and creates shots in sticky situations.

All he's done in SEC play is average 31.5 points per game through six games. If he keeps this up, the talk of him getting SEC Player of the Year over Wall, who may be the National Player of the Year, are legitimate.

People may look at Downey's size and say he can't play in the NBA. He's comparable to Nate Robinson without the high-flying dunking ability, as both can create their own shot in many ways and have excellent strength (speaking of which, did anybody see Robinson's three-point play against Minnesota last night?). Downey also leads the nation in steals, so can play a little defense too.

Scorers generally have the easiest transition to the pro game, as evidenced by the play of Stephen Curry this season, O.J. Mayo and Eric Gordon last season and Kevin Durant the year before. Downey may end up being drafted in the second round but much like DeJuan Blair this season, he has the ability to be a second-round steal if he sees 20-25 minutes a game.

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