SC's Horn on recruiting trail after beating No. 1

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SC's Horn on recruiting trail after beating No. 1

By PETE IACOBELLI
AP Sports Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Darrin Horn didn’t
stick around Wednesday to enjoy the campus buzz over the
Gamecocks landmark win, not with all those recruits to visit.

Hours after South Carolina defeated No. 1 Kentucky, 68-62 on
Tuesday night, Horn was off wooing potential prospects armed
with perhaps the biggest victory in program history. The
Gamecocks had lost their previous seven games against top-ranked
teams until beating the Wildcats.

Horn knows how that will play on the road for his second-year
program.

“When you walk in the gym and you’ve got South Carolina across
your chest and you’ve just beaten the number one team in the
country, I think it makes a difference,” Horn said Wednesday.

Horn is glad the school and his players got something to
celebrate. He knows, though, the good feelings have to be
tempered with hard work and focus.

The Gamecocks (12-8, 3-3 Southeastern Conference) can’t think
they’ve arrived and need to keep the focus that fueled the
Wildcat win. They host Georgia on Saturday night and Horn will
spend the next few practices preaching steadiness.

“Trying to control what we can control, do what we can do and
not getting too high or too low,” Horn said.

It was hard for South Carolina players and fans to feel any
higher than they did Tuesday night.

Devan Downey scored 30 points to lead the Gamecock upset, then
urged fans past the yellow rope barrier held by security guards
to storm the court at the end. The move earned South Carolina a
$25,000 fine Wednesday from the SEC.

The good feelings continued Wednesday around campus.

“It was actually crazy with the text messages and the phone
calls,” said Downey, groggy and a bit hoarse. “You go from
everybody’s kind of down with how the team is doing to you’d
think we’d won a national championship.”

Downey, the stellar senior who’s averaging better than 31 points
in SEC games, knows the undermanned Gamecocks reside somewhere
in the middle with about six weeks to go in league play. They
now have a shot of confidence, according to Downey, that more
success is ahead.

“Everybody wants to talk about how well I played,” Downey said.
“I don’t really think I was the most important player in the
game.”

There was fellow senior Brandis Raley-Ross, who had his the best
SEC performance of his career with 17 points. Forwards Sam
Muldrow and Johndre Jefferson, who combined for 19 rebounds
against Kentucky’s strong front line. And Austin Steed, who had
a block on Kentucky star John Wall when the Wildcats were trying
for a late charge.

“So many other guys did good things last night,” Downey said.

Horn was glad to see others fill in around the team’s
unquestioned star in Downey. Then again, they don’t have a
choice of South Carolina hopes to keep winning.

The team went 10-6 in the league last season, its best mark
since 1997-98, in Horn’s debut and figured to make a charge for
even more this season. But senior Dominique Archie was lost for
the season in November with a knee injury. Forward Mike Holmes
hurt his eye horsing-around at home soon after and was
subsequently dismissed by Horn for repeated violations of team
rules.

That left the Gamecocks without their top two rebounders from a
year ago – and with too many questions about how they’d match up
with SEC elites.

It looked like South Carolina might enter with an even bleaker
outlook after a crushing defeat at Florida last Saturday night.
Downey’s incredible, go-ahead driving layup with 5 seconds left
was trumped by Chandler Parson’s game-winning 3-pointer.

But Horn, though, saw a proud bunch at a Sunday night meeting,
not ready to throw away the season. “They had a presence and a
look in their eyes,” said Horn, a Kentucky native who’s won
three straight against the Wildcats.

For Downey, the goal of the NCAA tournament they brought into
the season remains in sight. As he watched the Gators and their
fans cheer last weekend, Downey regretted letting a
resume-building win slip away.

“Now, we got an even bigger one,” Downey said with a smile.

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