Providence vs. South Carolina
The concise theme of the South Carolina-Providence battle truly describes the style of both Devan Downey (USC) and Geoff McDermott (PC). One thinks fast and plays faster while the other (McDermott) thinks fast and plays slow. Each dominated.
Downey took to the stage first. The transfer from Cincinnati carries himself like he just conquered an empire. From watching him for just a few minutes, it’s easy to tell he is exactly the kind of player to which a coach eagerly hands control of his team. Downey’s speed really aggravated Providence as did the general swiftness of USC in general.
South Carolina coach Dave Odom has a collection of lithe, ultra-quick players. More than anything the early stretches were defined by the Gamecocks’ frontcourt obliterating PC on the boards. In fact, USC made Providence look like a gaggle of men in golashes polodding through the mire.
Midway through the second half, South Carolina appeared equipped to claim the first SEC victory in the invitational. McDermott chose that time to expose the Gamecocks to his non-nonsense, workmanlike game.
The 6’8, 235-pound forward even brought the circular citrus across midcourt for PC several times. He initiated the attack by darting into the lane, swiveling, and putting up a strong shot.
The wizardry of each team’s supreme talent emerged within the confines of the game. Downey’s jets are inescapable, glaring. Anyone present can point out the hyper-speed guard knifing through the helpless defense. McDermott’s talents are more subtle and require tighter focus.
McDermott plays relatively calm. A man of his intimidating size moves efficiently through life. The essence of his goodness, potential greatness, is that very same calm. He casually glides over the hardwood, making immaculate decisions every second. McDermott heads to the basket when it’s most prudent; uses the kick pass when wise.
Defenses may be in proper position to stop him. The problem is few defenders have the strength to discourage his intentions. Worst-case scenario, he gets whacked across his pythons and PC is “stuck” with two FTs.
McDermott’s fourth foul, a curious whistle amidst a free for all on the floor, came six minutes before the end of regulation. Tim Welsh elected to leave his pride horse on the court.
If Thursday’s game is any indication of his ceiling, South Carolina freshman Mike Holmes will be a nice player in the SEC for the next few years. The thin, active, wiry, strong newcomer already can create his own shot, rebound, and defend his position; quite the assortment of skills for the teenager. Dominique Archie is quite the Hopalong Cassidy himself. Numerous times he got up for a rebound twice before any Friars offered once.
The “Best Player” title belt seemed entirely passed from Downey to McDermott as the game crawled to a close. Just then a careless PC dribbler saw “2D” in 3D. Devan Downey knocked the ball from the Friar hand and into the forecourt. This simple play reminded Providence there was a player on the floor markedly faster, both hands and feet, than anyone in its program.
After the typical drawn-out free throw parade, Weyinmi Efejuku earned a chance to knock down two free throws with .2 seconds remaining.
If converted, the second would have tied the game, almost certainly sending the contest to overtime. He missed the first and unintentionally made the back end. Final score, South Carolina 68, Providence 67.
Passing is by far the most surprising aspect of McDermott’s game. He finished with 16 hard fought points, 10 rebounds, but five impressive assists set the tone.
Cutting the game to two with three to play was a true thing of beauty. McDermott dribbled down the right side of the lane, and executed a no-look, bounce pass simultaneously splitting the lane and Gamecock double team.
The play was not an example of great vision for number 11 did not have a chance to see the recipient of his pass. He simply knew there would be an open man beyond the double team. This knowledge of the game coupled with the athleticism capable of executing it should scare future Big East opponents.
For the SEC teams, Downey presents a different concern. Since you’re not obligated to keep the 5’9” speedball, keep your eyes open this winter.
The guy is a blur.