Feb. 18, 2003
USC will be looking for its fourth straight win when the Gamecocks host the Volunteers from Tennessee. The Vols are coming off a 73-70 win over then-No. 4 Florida on Saturday. (Coach Odom quotes from press conference today follow below)
Tennessee won the last match-up between the two teams, 60-65 on Jan. 29. USC won both games between the two teams last year. Including the Jan. 29 victory, the Vols have rolled off six straight wins, including two over top 25 opponents (then-No. 18 Georgia, 78-72 and then-No. 4 Florida).
USC enters the contest winners of its last two SEC contests: 84-72 at Vanderbilt and 72-65 vs. Arkansas. This season USC is 10-11 and 3-7 in the SEC. USC coach Dave Odom is 2-1 lifetime vs. the Vols.
The Gamecocks are 9-3 at The Carolina Center since it opened, with the building posting a 21-5 career record (including the USC women’s team).
“We played Tennessee, two, three weeks ago up in Knoxville. And I thought it was sort of an aberration,” said Odom on Monday’s SEC teleconference. “I don’t think anyone saw what a true South Carolina-Tennessee match would be, simply because of foul trouble. Since then, Tennessee has obviously gotten better. We’re looking at this game as a great challenge.”
“With Tennessee, if you’re comparing this year’s team to last year’s, the defense is much, much better,” continued Odom. “The second thing is Ron Slay. The last game we played in Knoxville, was the first time I’ve seen him in person. In my mind, he’s the best player in the league. He’s shown me that he’s terrific. The two things that are different are their team defense is much better, and Ron Slay gives them star power.”
UT is 15-6 and 7-3 in the league. The Vols, coached by second year head coach Buzz Peterson, are winners of their last six games.
“I remember the first game when we played USC,” said Peterson on the SEC teleconference on Monday. “We were coming off two losses, and we were trying to find ourselves. This is a much improved USC team. It’s going to be a tougher challenge for us, because they are playing in their home gym.”
“We’ve got more confidence,” continued Peterson. “You go through so many times where you fail, and you get sick and tired of it. We got sick and tired of it, and we just wanted to get some wins.”
The Tennessee game will be carried on the radio airwaves by the Gamecock Sports Network (for radio listings see page 13). Charlie McAlexander (play-by-play) and Casey Manning (color) will call the action on more than 25 stations in the Palmetto State and world-wide on the internet at www.uscsports.com.
1000, 1001, 1002, 1004 …
Chuck Eidson scored his 1000th point in the win against Arkansas. He has 1,004 career points, making him the 36th Gamecock to join the 1,000 point club.
Tony Kitchings could be the 37th to join that coveted list, as he has 904 in his career. Eidson holds the USC career record in steals with 257 (see notes below).
bringing his A game
It appears Tony Kitchings is beginning to turn on his mid-to-late season jets. After after averaging just six points and 2.6 rebounds in three games (UK, at LSU and at Vandy), Kitchings has averaged 14.5 ppg and 7.0 rpg the past two games. He has raised his points per game average by one point in the last two games, hitting a season-high 9.5 ppg.
Last seson, Kitchings had a nine-game stretch where he did not score in double-figures, seeing his points average dip to 5.4 per game (at UK to MSU). He then turned it on to score in double figures nine straight games and push his average to 7.0. Prior to the nine game stretch, he had only scored in double figures three times last season.
Kitchings also boosted his rebounding average from 5.0 rpg to 6.2 rpg in the same stretch last season.
USC Head Basketball Coach Dave Odom spoke the media on today prior to Tennessee game tomorrow.
“When you look at what has happen to our team over the past three games it pales in comparison to what Tennessee has done. They have won six in a row and have beaten some pretty good teams.
“The thing that really impresses me about Tennessee is the way they have played on the road. They have road wins at Auburn, Ole Miss and Arkansas, which is quite impressive. So we don’t necessarily have an advantage playing them at home.
“Significant improvements in their defense from a year ago and the return of Ron Slay, in my opinion the best offensive player in the SEC, really make them a strong team. They have got good support on the perimeter with CJ Watson, who plays well beyond his years.
“I think our team is playing better now and I feel that if we are going to be part of any meaningful conversation this is a big game for us.
We ask that our team and fans give us a good effort and I know they will. We are in reasonably good shape right now. Kerbrell Brown continues to fight his ankle, but we expect him ready to go today. Tarence Kinsey has early stages of a stress fracture in his foot, but he is cleared to play and we are going to take the necessary precautions to make sure he plays the rest of the season. We expect everyone to play tomorrow night and the starting lineup to remain the same.
Q: Did Kerbrell’s injury happen in the Arkansas game?
Odom: Yes, he hurt his ankle in the first half and we taped it at halftime. I thought he was really effective as a rebounder in the second half, but I felt it did effect his shot. We do expect him to play tomorrow and hopefully he will play well.
Q: Arkansas was able to beat your trap. Have you made any adjustments?
Odom: Yes, we were slow to the trap and I felt they were just well prepared for it. We did not get enough pressure on the ball and enough deflections. They were well prepared for it and we have got to do a better job of disguising it.
Q: How does (UT) Watson’s quickness compare to Arkansas’ Ferguson’s?
Odom: I think he may be a little quicker, but I feel both play with confidence and composure. Watson is a little taller and Ferguson is a little stronger, but both are great players.
Q: How do you plan to slow down Ron Slay?
Odom: I am not one to say let’s give him his points and stop everyone else. We have prepared to play to the best of our ability and are going to do what we can to limit his effectiveness. His scoring does not bother me as much as how easy he scores. In our first match up he scored very easily and that is something we are going to have to stop.