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Nov. 12, 2002

The University of South Carolina men’s basketball team (22-15 in 2001-02) plays its second and last exhibition game Wednesday evening as the Gamecocks take on Unibanka Cesis, Latvia (0-2) in a 7:30 p.m. tip at the Frank McGuire Arena. The game is the final collegiate contest ever at the Frank McGuire Arena as the Gamecocks open regular season action Sunday, Nov. 24 against East Tennessee State in the 18,000-seat Carolina Center (3 p.m. tip).

South Carolina opened up exhibition play with an 80-64 victory over Team Nike last Thursday while Cesis is 0-2 on its Southeastern United States tour. Cesis lost to Marshall, 121-77, on Nov. 7 and fell to Bellarmine, 107-103, on Nov. 8. The squad has contests remaining against Tennessee (Nov. 14), Rhode Island (Nov. 15) and Hartford (Nov. 16).

Team Nike Review

Chuck Eidson scored 16 of his game-high 18 points in the first half and South Carolina forced 24 turnovers in an 80-64 victory over Team Nike in an exhibition contest last Thursday. The Gamecocks, playing without injured forward Rolando Howell, got a strong start from the perimeter from Eidson, and a good finish from Marius Petravicius (finished with 17 points) and Tony Kitchings (10 points, 11 rebounds).

Carolina made 43.5 percent of its field goals and 7-of-21 (33.3%) three pointers, dished out 19 assists compared to just 12 turnovers and recorded 18 steals.

Gamecocks in Exhibition Contests

With the victory over Team Nike last week and 10-consecutive exhibition victories, South Carolina now has an overall record of 31-6 in exhibition games in its history. Last year, Carolina went 2-0 with wins over Team Nike and BC Albacomp, Hungary.

All of Carolina’s exhibition games have been played since the 1980-81 season and have been at the Frank McGuire Arena (history is detailed on page 3). The Gamecocks are 17-2 in their last 17 exhibition contests and have not lost since a Nov. 6, 1997 game to Marathon Oil.

Injury Update

The injury bug has hit the Gamecocks and three individuals will be held out of Wednesday’s contest. Rolando Howell is still nursing a left high ankle sprain that kept him out of last week’s exhibition, while Tony Kitchings suffered the same injury in practice that will keep him out of this contest. Reserve guard Jon Land is nursing left knee inflamation. All three individuals are day-to-day and are not expected to miss the season opener Nov. 24 vs. East Tennessee State.

Recapping Last Season

The Gamecocks lost a number of close games, but easily played their best basketball of the season late in advancing to the National Invitation Tournament title game. Head Coach Dave Odom led USC to a 22-15 mark in his first season as the Gamecocks won six of their final eight games.

USC started the streak by upsetting 2002 NCAA Tournament teams Ole Miss and Kentucky in the SEC Tournament before dropping a heartbreaking decision to SEC champion Alabama. Carolina then went on the road to open NIT play and downed Virginia before posting lopsided wins over UNLV and Ball State to advance to Madison Square Garden. There, the Gamecocks defeated Syracuse before falling in the title game to Memphis in USC’s first appearance ever in a national title contest.

The guard duo of Aaron Lucas and Jamel Bradley led the Gamecocks in scoring while Bradley became USC’s all-time leading three point shooter and SEC single-season leader. Rolando Howell, named to the NIT All-Tournament team, averaged 9.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, while Tony Kitchings (7.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg) parlayed his solid performance in the SEC Tournament to All-Tournament team honors.

USC Opponents Dot Top 25 Preseason Poll

You don’t have to look far to see a bevy of Gamecock opponents in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25. Carolina has eight games against six teams currently rated in the Top 17, including three contests against teams in the top eight.

The Gamecocks have a pair of games against No. 7 Florida and will take on No. 8 Alabama. Carolina also has a game against No. 13 Mississippi State and a pair of contests each against No. 16 Georgia and No. 17 Kentucky.

In all, the Gamecocks will play as many as 15 games this season against teams who participated in either the NCAA or NIT postseason classics.

Good Numbers Returning

Despite the Gamecocks losing their top two scorers, a majority of Carolina’s numbers across the board return to the 2002-03 team. USC returns 64.6 percent of its scoring (44.1 ppg), 85.5 percent of the rebounding (25.7 rpg), 57.3 percent of the assists (8.6 apg), 83.7 percent of the blocked shots (2.4 bpg) and 75.6 percent of the steals (7.3 spg).

Individually, Carolina returns its top two rebounders from a year ago (Tony Kitchings 6.2, Rolando Howell 6.0) and its top steals leader (Chuck Eidson 2.7).

A Family Affair

Gamecock assistant coach Barry Sanderson is the second son of legendary coach Wimp Sanderson to call Carolina home. Barry’s older brother, Scott, was a guard for Bill Foster’s teams from 1981-84. Scott played in 114 career games at Carolina, scoring 271 points, and remains in the USC all-time Top 20 for career games played.

A Family Affair: Part 2

Carolina Head Coach Dave Odom has a pair of sons in the coaching business in Division I basketball. His older son, Lane, is an assistant on the staff at the University of Missouri, while Ryan is on the staff at American University.

Head Coaching Experience

Three of the four coaches on Carolina’s staff have head coaching experience. Dave Odom has 16 years under his belt (one at Carolina, 12 at Wake Forest, three at East Carolina) while Rick Duckett joined Odom and the staff last year after spending three years at Winston-Salem State and the previous five seasons at Fayetteville State. Ernie Nestor came to USC from Wake Forest and has five years of head coaching experience (1989-93 at George Mason) under his belt.

Combined, Odom, Duckett and Nestor have 29 seasons of head coaching experience coming into the 2002-03 season.

Palmetto State Squad

Although the numbers have decreased slightly, the Gamecocks sill have a vast majority of their players from the Palmetto State. USC just less than half of its 15-man roster from South Carolina, including two from Columbia: Ivan Howell and Rolando Howell. Others from the Palmetto State include: Chuck Eidson (Summerville), Tony Kitchings (Aiken), Carlos Powell (Florence) , Sheldon Everett (Lexington) and Jarod Gerald (Mullins).

Carolina had had at least half of its roster from the Palmetto State in each of the last seven seasons, including a high of 10 players from South Carolina in 1998-99.

USC Picked Fourth in East by SEC Media

A panel of media chose South Carolina to finish fourth in the SEC’s Eastern Division in voting conducted Oct. 30 at the annual SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala. Alabama was the media’s pick to repeat as league champion.

Writers and broadcasters picked Florida to win the SEC East. The Gators were followed by Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Alabama was picked to repeat as the SEC West champion with Mississippi State, LSU, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Auburn rounding out the poll.

Erwin Dudley of Alabama was chosen by SEC media to be the league’s player of the year. Dudley headed up a five-man first team of Mario Austin (Mississippi State), Jarvis Hayes (Georgia), Maurice Williams (Alabama) and Brett Nelson (Florida).

A Lot of Games Early

A year ago, Carolina had a tough stretch of games to open the season. This year, Carolina has a lot early against a lot of good teams.

Carolina opens the season Nov. 24 vs. East Tennessee State, then after Thanksgiving, will play Nov. 29 vs. South Carolina State, Nov. 30 vs. Appalachian State and Dec. 2 vs. Temple. The Gamecocks finish the tough stretch with games at Georgetown (Dec. 5) and at N.C. State (Dec. 8).

Next Up

The Gamecocks open the 2002-03 season and 18,000-seat Carolina Center Sunday, Nov. 24 against East Tennessee State (3 p.m. tipoff).