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December 5, 2001

Associated Press Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C.– It was a game Dave Odom could love.

The South Carolina coach has always like his teams to bang inside and play pressure defense. He got both as his Gamecocks (5-3) beat the Friars (5-3) 67-48 on Monday night.

Coming into the game, Providence was forcing an average of 21 turnovers a game. But South Carolina turned the tables, forcing the Friars into 24 turnovers.

Odom didn’t want to take credit for molding the team to his liking.

Providence coach Tim Welsh wasn’t as shy. “That’s a typical Dave Odom team,” he said.

South Carolina’s Jamel Bradley led all scorers with 17 points and Marius Petravicius added 11 points and pulled down nine rebounds.

Ryan Gomes scored 15 points and pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds for Providence. The Friars’ only other scorer in double-figures was Abdul Mills, with 14 points.

South Carolina guard Aaron Lucas, who turned the ball over four times in a 60-55 loss to the Friars last year, wouldn’t call the win a statement game for South Carolina, but said it was still important.

“They’re a solid team in the Big East. Any time you do that, that’s something,” he said.

The 48 points for Providence was the lowest total for the Friars since they beat Boston College 45-40 on Feb. 26, 2000. The Gamecocks haven’t held an opponent below 48 points since they beat College of Charleston 55-44 on Dec. 4, 1998.

“We’re just not a good basketball team right now,” Welch said.

Providence pulled within 44-37 with 10:38 left. But a Bradley 3-pointer sparked a 23-11 run over the rest of the game.

“The thing I like about South Carolina is even though they are under a new coach and a new system, they still work together as a team very well,” Welch said.

South Carolina’s tough defense started in the first half when they forced 11 turnovers and drew four charging fouls. The Gamecocks ended the first 20 minutes on a 17-8 run to take a 26-17 lead at the break.

Providence cut the lead to 38-31. Then the Gamecocks turned on the defense, forcing the Friars into four turnovers on their next seven possessions to take a 43-31 lead

But baskets on each of the next three possessions, two of them by Gomes, cut the deficit to 44-37. During that run, starting point guard John Linehan picked up his fourth foul and “we just froze offensively,” Welsh said.

Odom didn’t want his team to reflect on the win too long. “Their best play is to come. And it has to be, because of the teams that lie ahead,” he said.

The Gamecocks play No. 14 Georgetown in Columbia on Thursday night, while Providence goes home to play George Washington on Saturday.

Tony Kitchings, who usually splits time with the other frontcourt starters, missed the game nursing a concussion. But Petravicius and Rolando Howell were able to shoulder most of the load. Howell went 4-for-4 from the field, scoring nine points and grabbing seven rebounds.

The biggest cheers of the game came in the final two minutes as South Carolina coach Dave Odom put in Gamecock star running back Derek Watson. Watson, who joined the team Sunday, hit 1-of-2 free throws and ended the game with a point.

“He looked at me a couple of times like, ‘Coach, when is the defense coming in,'” Odom said.