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Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Instant reaction: No. 1 goes down

By Pat Forde

Snap judgments and instant reactions from South Carolina’s stunning upset of No. 1 Kentucky:

-- Did that really happen? Yeah, it did. I wrote Saturday that Kentucky would lose this season -- and probably more than once -- but I’m not sure I expected it to come this quickly. The Wildcats spent seven years waiting to be No. 1 again, and lost it in 40 minutes.

-- At least we can silence the annual silly speculation about whether anyone is going to go ’76 Hoosiers on us. Not happening. Not this year, not any year. Now 34 seasons and counting since Indiana’s 32-0 masterpiece.

-- Should Barack Obama now put in a congratulatory call to the Gamecocks, after his afternoon call to the Wildcats?

-- Devan Downey might have played the best 20-missed-field-goal game in college basketball history. The mighty mite was 9 for 29 from the field -- but so what? He scored 30 points in 38 bullet-proof minutes, getting to the line often enough to go 10-of-11 from the stripe. Is he the best 5-foot-9 pure scorer since Calvin Murphy?

-- Darrin Horn, native of Lexington, Ky., is 3-0 against the Kentucky Wildcats as coach of the Gamecocks. That isn’t bad. Horn was not recruited by UK and played at Western Kentucky instead. He also coached the Hilltoppers, and some folks in Bowling Green wanted Horn out after he failed to reach the NCAA tournament until his fifth season. Then he took Western to the Sweet 16 and returned the school’s fickle support by leaving it for bigger and better.

-- The victory is especially impressive for the Gamecocks when you consider they lost their second-best player, Dominique Archie, to a knee injury just five games into the season. That was supposed to sink South Carolina’s season, but it clearly has not. Let’s see if the Gamecocks can build on it.

-- The loss of Archie was lessened Tuesday night by the play of unheralded big men Sam Muldrow and Johndre Jefferson. They came in averaging a combined 8.8 rebounds and left with 19 between them against Kentucky’s imposing size.

-- As for the Wildcats, they finally acted their age. John Wall and Eric Bledsoe played like freshmen on the road, combining for nine turnovers and failing to finish several drives to the basket. Probably, all things considered, a good learning experience for them.

-- The guy who really was disappointing for Kentucky was Patrick Patterson. The junior is a class act, but he might be lacking the necessary leadership gene. While everyone but DeMarcus Cousins was struggling, Patterson was flat disappearing. He played 35 minutes, took four shots and two free throws, and finished with five points. He has to do more than that.

-- That said, he’s not the only one. Fifth starter Darius Miller followed his career-high 18 points against Arkansas with a bagel. The bench was 3-for-11 from the field. Kentucky’s vaunted depth didn’t contribute.

-- Cousins is like Downey, only in reverse. Both do things that defy their size. Downey’s ability to drive and score against players more than a foot taller is amazing. Cousins’ ability to spin, float and score at 6-foot-11, 260 pounds is similarly amazing.

-- Kentucky might not play in a better atmosphere, but it will play better teams. Which means there are more losses to come unless the Cats learn significant lessons from this game. UK still must travel to Starkville, Nashville, Knoxville and Athens.

-- A couple stats that will never fully make sense from this game: South Carolina shot 34 percent from the field and had six assists. And beat the No. 1 team in the country. Basketball is a funny, funny game.