The Wildcats (19-1, 4-1) had taken a 47-42 lead on one of two free throws by super frosh John Wall. They had been on a 10-0 run and looked like they were taking a step closer to Dick Vitale's prophecy that they were going to be undefeated going into the game at UT on Feb 27, which would have gotten them to 29-0 by that time. I didn't believe Vitale. I thought that was assuming too much. He was so sure of that and I didn't buy it.
Down 47-42, Downey took over. He made a beautiful and one three point play to cut the lead to 47-45 with 9:34 left. Then he was fouled shooing and made two free throws to tie the game at 47 with 8:40 left. He was 10-of-11 from the line, but just nine-of-29 from the field. Still they were huge baskets particularly in this stretch. He finished with 30.
Later down the stretch, Downey made another amazing three point play falling backwards with 4:16 left. It was an old-fashioned three to put the Gamecocks up 54-51. Then he made another running in the lane semi- layup, floater with 3:25 to go to put the Gamecocks up 56-51.
The Wildcats battled back behind John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins (of Mobile). Wall finished with 19 points and Cousins had a double-double: 27 points, 12 boards. I didn't think Cousins was going to be a great college player after watching him in the semifinals of the high school final four here last year when now teammate Eric Bledsoe and Parker dominated him. He just didn't look like he played that hard. But John Calipari has lit a fire under him. He's a stud.
Wall made a beautiful driving layup and one to cut the lead to 62-61 with 40 seconds left. But Brandis Raley-Ross sank two free throws and USC was six of eight from the line at the end in the last 23 seconds to ice it. They also made a key defensive stop at the end blocking a Wall shot.
Great win for USC (12-8, 3-3) at the Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.