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Nov. 17, 2003

South Carolina will open the 2003-04 with a first-ever meeting with Gardner-Webb University tonight in the second game of the first round of the Guardians Classic (start time: 8:00 pm). Gardner-Webb, located in Boiling Springs, N.C. is one of three teams that will to travel to USC for the first and second rounds of the Guardians Classic. Idaho and Elon complete the bracket.

USC was 12-16 and 5-11 in the SEC last season.

“We are really pleased that we are hosting one of the sites,” said USC Head Coach Dave Odom. “This gives us a good cross section of the country with three local teams and Idaho, which has a difficult travel across the country. We have a very young team. We have two players, Carlos Powell and Mike Boynton, who are our most experienced players. We are very inexperienced, that’s the down side. The upside is we have some young players who are excited for this tournament to start. We look forward to being in the tournament and seeing what we can do.”

Gardner-Webb, 5-24 in 2003, finished fifth in the North side of the Atlantic Sun Conference at 2-14. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are led by Rick Scruggs, who is 131-99 in nine years at Gardner-Webb. They return four starters from last season, including 11 letterwinners.

“Since we made the transition to Division I, this is a first for us in such a tournament,” said Scruggs. “This gives us great exposure. It gives our fans and kids exposure and shows that we are trying to move up the ladder. Last year’s team was very young – we had five freshmen. We lost eight games last year that we were tied or winning in the last minute. We have a much better team than we had last year.”

The Guardians Classic

The Guardians Classic, a tournament sponsored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, is in its third year. USC is playing in it for the first time. USC’s last appearance in a pre-season tournament produced a fourth place finish at the 2001 Maui Invitational.

In last year’s Guardians Classic finals, Creighton defeated Notre Dame 80-75 to win the tournament. In the inaugural 2001 Classic, Missouri defeated Iowa 78-77.

Eight teams from eight conferences will face off in college basketball’s most exciting new tournament this year. The Guardians Classic is a two-week exempt tournament consisting 12 teams. Advancing to Kansas City will be the winner from each of the three regional sites and a wild-card will also advance to the semi-final round. The criteria for selecting the wild-card will be 1. the relative margin of victory or defeat in the first round; 2. the RPI of the first round opponent; 3. the relative margin of victory or defeat in the second round; 4. the RPI of the second round opponent and 5. the team RPI. The final selection will be made by the Gazelle Group and announced immediately after the final game on the last night.

The NCAA awarded the Guardians Classic this special exemption, which allows teams to play in these games in excess of the normal maximum number of contests.

The Guardians Classic promotes the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Guardians of the Game program, dedicated to recognizing the role coaches play in the lives of student-athletes and their communities.

Exhibition Opener

USC defeated Inter Hoop (Lithuania) on Thursday, Nov. 13 in exhibition play, 81-62. The game, played in the USC Practice Facility, featured five Gamecocks scoring in double figures: Josh Gonner (18), Tarence Kinsey (15), Carlos Powell (13), Renaldo Balkman (12) and Kerbrell Brown (10).

With 12-consecutive exhibition victories, South Carolina now has an overall record of 33-6 in exhibition games in its history. The Gamecocks are 18-2 in their last 20 exhibition contests and have not lost since a Nov. 6, 1997 game to Marathon Oil.

Starting off right … sort of

Carlos Powell scored 13 points and grabbed 14 boards against Inter Hoop on Thursday night. In all of 2002-03, he had one double-double. It came in the season opener against East Tennessee State. He has three in his career.

Powell fouled out against Inter Hoop on Thursday. In his entire career, he has fouled out only once. February 1, 2003 vs. Kentucky.

Marking an early impact

The five newcomers scored 39 of the teams 81 points during Thursday’s exhibition. They combined to shoot 46.2% from the floor. (12-26)

Gonner played only 27 minutes but led all scorers with 18 points in Thursday’s game. He was 3-8 from beyond the arch and 5-6 behind the charity stripe.

Carolina led 37-25 at the half against Inter Hoop. All of last year, USC led only three times by a 10 point margin at the half (Appalachian State, Citadel, Vanderbilt).

Season Openers

Opening its 96th season of college basketball, USC is 66-29 in season openers. Since joining the SEC in 1991, the Gamecocks are 7-5.

Oddly enough, in 1909-10, USC’s season opener against Davidson, an 8-29 loss on Nov. 2, was also the season finale.

Use to call it HOME SWEET HOME

Elon Head Coach Ernie Nestor should ring a bell with Gamecock fans as he spent the last two seasons as Coach Odom’s top Gamecock assistant. The former head coach at George Mason is in his first season with the Phoenix. He brings in a 68-81 record as a head coach (five years).

“It’s an exciting place – the new Arena,” said Nestor. “I know what is being done to lift the program in the SEC. The new building is a great place. I respect what Coach Odom is doing there. I enjoyed the people and the kids at USC. South Carolina has really good basketball talent right now. I have great feelings – I worked for Coach Odom for 10 years. In athletics you are loyal to a place and that’s what makes it so special.”

The Phoenix were 12-15 last season, including an 8-6 record in the Big South Conference where they finished tied for second. Elon returns three starters and 11 letterwinners.

Coach Nestor has two coaches on his staff who should be familiar to Coach Odom – both are 2000 Wake Forest graduates: Tim Fuller and Jim Fitzpatrick.

USC is 1-0 against Elon. The Gamecocks defeated the Phoenix 102-78 on Dec. 19, 1966 in Charlotte, N.C.

2,667 miles from home

According to, Idaho travelled over 2,667 miles from Moscow to Columbia to play in the Guardians Classic. Moscow is in the northwest corner of the state.

Idaho was 13-15 under second year head coach Leonard Perry in 2002-03. They posted a 9-9 record in the Big West, finishing fifth.

Perry, 22-34 in two seasons with Idaho, returns three starters and eight letterwinners for the Vandals.

USC is 1-0 against Idaho, having defeated the Vandals 56-54 on Jan. 22, 1983 in Columbia.

Updating the record

The Gamecocks have a 1,143-1,013-1 mark in 95 seasons and are one of 11 teams in the SEC to have won 1,000 or more games.