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Downey’s 33 leads South Carolina past Auburn 80-71

Downey’s 33 leads South Carolina past Auburn 80-71

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Devan Downey scored 33 points to lead South Carolina to an 80-71 win over Auburn on Saturday in the team’s Southeastern Conference opener.

Auburn coach Jeff Lebo said his team tried everything against Downey, the second leading scorer in the SEC with 18.5 a game.

“My fears came true in this game,” Lebo said. “Devan Downey was just unbelievable. We guarded him every which way you can guard him and he beat it every which way you can beat it. Then he made 3’s. When he’s making 3s, you don’t guard him.”

Downey shot just 4-for-12 in the first half to lead his team with 10 points. The Gamecocks (10-5, 1-0) leading scorer with 18.5 per game, scored 23 in the second half to lead all scorers in the road win.

Downey also fought off eight turnovers while the Gamecocks committed 17 as a team. Sam Muldrow added 12 points to go along with four blocked shots for South Carolina while Brandis Raley-Ross scored 11. Austin Steed had 10 points off the bench.

“A lot of us expect to see what we got out of Devan Downey tonight, even though 33 (points) is a terrific game,” South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. “Devan is a special one and we all know that, but everybody else did what they can do.”

South Carolina trailed 7-0 to start the game after turning the ball on three of its first five possessions. The Gamecocks redeemed themselves and led 32-29 at the break. The first half included seven ties and five lead changes.

Auburn (9-7, 0-1) struggled with the Gamecocks’ full court press, but tied the game at 52-52 with 10:06 to play. South Carolina went on an 8-0 run and never looked back.

“It’s what (full-court press) we do,” Downey said. “We feed off of it. That’s South Carolina basketball. Its just what we do everyday.”

Reserve Brendon Knox led Auburn with 22 points, DeWayne Reed scored 19, Lucas Hargrove had 12 and Frankie Sullivan added 10.

Hargrove and Reed combined for 12 assists but turned the ball over 11 times. Sullivan fouled out.

Auburn outscored South Carolina 52-26 in the paint. But the Tigers, who have put up 379 3-pointers this year, only shot 13 against the Gamecocks and made just two.

Downey just missed his season-high of 34 points, which he put up against Jacksonville on Nov. 27.

“We knew coming into the game that DeWayne Reed could score 30 points and Brendon Knox could score 20 points,” Horn said. That’s great as long as they don’t make a bunch of 3-pointers. We thought that was the most important part of the game plan.”

The Tigers snapped their four-game winning streak and it doesn’t get any easier in the next four games. Auburn travels to Tennessee on Thursday and hosts No. 3 Kentucky on Saturday. The Tigers then travel to LSU and Vanderbilt for their next two.

South Carolina goes back home for two straight games against LSU on Wednesday and Vanderbilt on Saturday.