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November 14, 2008

USC Hoops Extra: Downey regrets tech

Devan Downey was again a solid player during Friday's 89-76 win over Jacksonville State, USC's first game of the 2008-09 season. The redshirt junior scored 12 points with six assists and four steals.

He also put himself on the bench at one ill-timed moment.

Ahead 61-39 with just over 14 minutes to play, Downey got the ball near the scorer's table and called for a timeout. Jacksonville State's DeAndre Bray swiped at the ball in Downey's hands just after the whistle, after which Downey turned away and handed the ball to the referee.

Then he gave Bray a little love tap with his elbow, brushing the guard as Downey walked to the bench. Jacksonville State protested and although the ref blew the whistle late, he still blew it -- technical foul.

"We just got to be smarter," Downey said afterward. "Myself, with that technical ... I've got to be more of a leader."

It was Downey's fourth personal foul, a major setback with guard Brandis Raley-Ross already out of the game with a left knee injury. Downey had to sit and when Zam Fredrick picked up his fourth scarcely two minutes later, USC was running short on guards.

Jacksonville State took immediate advantage, going on a 21-11 run after the tech to close the lead to 13 points. USC rallied behind Mike Holmes and Austin Steed to salt the game away, and Downey re-entered the game to finish with no further damage.

He could look back then and afford to laugh. He'd gotten whistled for bumping a player that only three others in all of Division I basketball could look up to. That in itself was a novel sight -- the 5-foot-9 Downey finally looking down on somebody (Bray is 5-6).

"I know the dude like, slapped the ball out of my hand," Downey said. "Ah, I don't know."

LET'S GET PHYSICAL: USC ran the floor well and came out of the gate firing, working inside for buckets right away and forcing Jacksonville State to call a quick timeout after Dominique Archie ripped a one-hand jam over Amadou Mbodji. Archie came up screaming and pumping his fists, an attitude carried by the rest of USC on Friday.

Holmes got tangled up with Mbodji and slung him out of the way and even Robert Wilder showed off, earning a foul after he one-arm shoved Jonathan Toles away from him. Wilder also dove on the floor to wrestle Mbodji for a loose ball.

The physicality was good to see but came with a price -- Holmes was a bit banged-up after the game, seeming to suffer a slight left leg injury when he fell on top of Wilder and a Jacksonville State player on a rebound attempt. Archie also came up limping in the second half.

Neither is expected to miss any time.

GET 'EM IN: Everybody's going to have to play for USC this season, perhaps even more so now that Raley-Ross may be out (he will be re-evaluated on Saturday). Coach Darrin Horn played everybody on his bench (with the exception of academically struggling Sam Muldrow) by the 5:40 mark of the first half.

THE BALTIC BANGER?: Evka Baniulis showed that he's much more than a 3-point shooter when he drove the lane for a lay-up. He finished with 11 points, nine on 3-pointers.

Baniulis said earlier this week that he was used to playing inside, only switching to the arc when he came to USC. Being stereotyped as a European player ("He can only hit from the outside"), Baniulis earned his "Baltic Bomber" nickname last year but seems to be playing inside and out this year.

"'Slasher' is a strong term. I thought maybe that was Lithuanian," Horn joked. "Something that we talked to him about. I think Evka can do more than be a spot-up shooter. We're not ready to run clear-out scorer or compare him to Dominique athletically, but I think he can do good things for us and I think we saw some of that tonight."

HEARTS ON GLASS: USC lost the rebounding battle 41-37 but showed a lot of promise by retrieving two offensive boards after two missed free throws. One became a Raley-Ross 3-pointer and the other was a Steed lay-up.

SO CLOSE: Wilder didn't score on Friday but came oh-so-close.

His first attempt came late in the second half, when he stole the ball from the point man and reversed downcourt. He had an uncontested layup ... and pushed it off the rim.

No matter. With 1:25 to play, USC up 87-69, Wilder was on the line for two free throws. His first was well right.

The second, with the crowd pleading, rimmed out.

GOOD LINE: When Bray entered the game, it took about a minute before the USC student section serenaded him with chants of "Gary Coleman."



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