ATLANTA - Devan Downey broke the SEC single season steals record Friday afternoon in the Gamecocks 89-87 season-ending loss to the Tennessee Volunteers in a conference tournament quarterfinal game.
Entering the game, Downey was four steals short of tying Clint McDaniel (Arkansas 1995) at 102. The fifth steal to break the record came with 1:23 remaining when Downey stole the ball from Tennessee's Chris Lofton. A season long pick pocket job by Downey put him atop the record books, one already graced with garnet and black in the top five thanks to former Gamecock Chuck Eidson.
New Season Steals Standings:
1. 103 Devan Downey- South Carolina 2008
2. 102 Clint McDaniel - Arkansas 1995
3. 93 Chuck Eidson - South Carolina 2000
4. 93 Joe Darryl - LSU 1987
5. 91 Chuck Eidson - South Carolina 2002
When asked about the record, Downey said, "It's nice to be recognized, but I'm a leader. Leaders enjoy achievements after they retire. Right now, next season, it's about winning."
Coach Downey?: Constantly referring to the Gamecocks as "my team," Downey was asked if he was willing to be the leader now that there is no coach. He didn't hesitate, "With no coaching I'm going to make sure every one goes to class. I'll make sure every one is in the gym. I guess I'll have to step up and be like a coach. I think I have everyone's respect on the team and don't think (taking on that role) will be a problem."
Please Pardon Our Appearance: With 15:35 remaining in the first half and Tennessee enjoying a 12-2 lead, the Jumbo-tron at the Georgia Dome posted this message to the fans: "In two meetings this season Tennessee won both contests by an average of 28.5 points.
South Carolina 56
South Carolina 56
It seemed like a quick apology to the fans in attendance. Already ten points ahead after 4:25 played, everyone seemed to sense a blow out on the horizon - everyone except the Gamecocks. An 11-4 run to close out the first half had South Carolina back within one. They'd eventually lose at the wire - a far cry from the "This could get ugly" warning issued in the dome.
Mike Holmes Growing Up: Mike Holmes has come a long way this season as a freshman. At the beginning of the season, Holmes seemed lost playing against Division I opponents. He'd constantly look over at the coaching staff throughout the game when he'd get beat on defense. Coach Odom kept explaining it the same way.
"He's learning that he can't just have his way anymore like in high school," Odom said.
With Holmes' first season complete, Odom said, "Sometimes the bench is the best teacher. That bench taught Mike a lot. He didn't like the bench."
Though soft spoken after a last minute loss to Tennessee in the SEC tournament, Holmes acknowledged his growth.
"I think I improved a lot. My jumper, my defense, I worked hard. It was something I needed to get used to. I feel pretty confident now."
There is a widely held belief that a player's biggest improvement comes between his freshman and sophomore year. Surely, Holmes will have plenty of time to think this off season, "It makes me think about next year, because we have a good team here. If everyone keeps doing what they're doing we'll have a better outcome next season."
Odom continued his praise of Holmes, "No one has come as far as him. He's one of those few who just have it."
Dwayne's Last Day: Though continually asked about his career as a whole, Dwayne Day instead answered with comments about the loss to Tennessee on Friday. That says a lot more about Dwayne Day than anything else.
Forget tomorrow. Forget yesterday. It's all about the team and the loss.
Arkansas moving on: Arkansas beat the Vanderbil, 81-75, Friday to advance into the semi-finals against Tennessee. They are now 4-0 against Vanderbilt in the SEC's "end of the season soirée."
The Razorbacks had five players score in double figures, led by Darien Townes and Gary Ervin, both with 18.
Head Coach John Pelphrey credited the success of their press offense, as the reason Arkansas won, "So proud of the team effort. Down the stretch we really executed press offense every single time and made our free throws. Very good team effort."
SEC Player of the Year Shan Foster was held in check for the most part, scoring 14 on 4-for-10 shooting, with four rebounds and only one assist. Though the Commodores Alex Gordon scored 22, he had no assists and no rebounds.
All-SEC forward, Sonny Weems of Arkansas, was also ineffective in the game scoring three points with six rebounds, four assists and four turnovers.
Arkansas meets Tennessee Saturday at 1:00pm with the winner moving on to Sunday's Championship game.
Next Year - A Quick Glimpse: The 2008-09 basketball season will again have another slim cast to celebrate on Senior Day. Only Zam Fredrick and Branden Conrad will be seniors.
Arguably the team's three best players will be a sophomore and two juniors: Mike Holmes, So.; Devan Downey, Jr.; Dominique Archie, Jr.
Even more enticing, think about thar trio two seasons from now.
Even scarier, think about Tennessee. They'll lose Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, but they'll also have three juniors capable of dominating: Wayne Chism, Tyler Smith and SEC Sixth-man of the Year winner J.P. Prince.
Even scarier still, Florida had three freshmen make the All-Freshman Team in Nick Calathes, Jai Lucas and Chandler Parsons. Add 6-10, 250 pound junior-to-be Marreese Speights into the mix and all signs point to another incredible young crop of Florida hoopsters.
Don't forget about Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
Ahhh, life in the SEC
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