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Dec. 22, 2004

South Carolina, 6-2, returns home for its seventh game of the year at The Colonial Center on Wednes., Dec. 22 when the Gamecocks host South Carolina State, 7-2, at 7:30 pm. It’s a South Carolina/S.C. State doubleheaders as the two women’s programs play at 5 pm on the same court.

There are good seats available for $10. They can be purchased at the USC Ticket Office or at the Colonial Center.

Carolina was 1-1 in its swing through the Midwest and the deep South last week. USC dropped a 64-60 heartbreaker at No. 2 Kansas on Saturday night before traveling to Mobile, Ala. for a showdown with East Carolina. South Carolina defeated the Pirates 57-53 on Monday night at the Coors Classic when Tarence Kinsey was named the Tournament MVP. Earlier in the week USC defeated South Florida 72-70 (Dec. 14).

“The South Carolina State game is a very important game for us,” said USC Head Coach Dave Odom. “They have five starters back. This is a very dangerous game because if we don’t come out aggressive and put them on their heels, they may take the fight to us. We can’t sit back and feel sorry for ourselves because this is our third game in six days. It’s one game, just one game.”

(On whether he will play certain people to rest others): “We will play whoever is playing well – that’s who will be playing. We can rest after this game,” added Odom. “Rocky (Trice) was the guy last night (key three-pointer against East Carolina). We’ll find somebody who has the energy like that.”

USC is 12-0 lifetime against SC State, including an 86-50 win last year in Columbia on Dec. 22, 2003. The Gamecocks lead the overall series 12-0, with four of the 12 games being decided by seven points or less. All the games since the 1998-99 season have been decided by 14 points or more. Coach Odom is 4-0 against the Bulldogs.

Last year the Bulldogs were 14-4 in the MEAC (1st) and 18-11 overall. Winning the regular season title, they fell short of the MEAC’s NCAA Tournament automatic bid when the dropped a 65-53 decision to Florida A & M in the MEAC Conference Tournament. The Bulldogs return nine letterwinners and all five starters for head coach Ben Betts.

Long Break, Not So Long Break

South Carolina took a 10-day break for finals (Dec. 4-14). Beginning Dec. 14, the Gamecocks will have played four games in eight days prior to departing for Christmas after the SC State game. USC played the first (Dec. 14) and the last games (Dec. 22) at home and then at No. 2 Kansas for game two (Dec. 18) and in Mobile against East Carolina for game three (Dec. 20).

On the other bench, SC State has played just one game since breaking for finals on Dec. 6. After a week break, SC State defeated Savannah State (77-55) on Dec. 13 and will have had nine days off to prepare for Carolina.

Good News, Bad News

After winning its first four games by an average of 21 points, the last four games have been much closer. No game has been won by more than four points, with the four games being decided by 11 points total. USC dropped an OT game to Clemson by one point, won the South Florida game by two points, then dropped a game to No. 2 Kansas by four points and then defeated East Carolina by four points.

A Long Weekend

The Gamecocks went 1-1 over the weekend stretch at No. 2 Kansas and East Carolina. The Gamecocks trip to Kansas was their first road contest while the ECU game was their first neutral game of the season.

The weekend was a good one for senior Carlos Powell who collected 25 points and 18 boards. Another player who set the tone on the weekend was Tarence Kinsey. Kinsey was named Coors Classic Game 1 MVP on Monday for his 13 points and five boards in the ECU win. Kinsey sealed the game for Carolina with his two free throws with 21 second remaining in the game. After a missed ECU jumper, Kinsey recorded the final rebound to preserve the four point USC win.

What They Did Last …

The Bulldogs had to shake off a sluggish start and a pesky Savannah State (0-11) team Dec. 13 to score their second win in a row, 77-55. The Tigers kept the contest close for most of the game, but were unable to match the Bulldogs’ firepower down the stretch of the contest.

After not playing a game since December 6th, the Bulldogs showed some signs of rust early in the contest, but were able to bounce back and click on all cylinders down the stretch of the contest.

“The lay-off had much to do with it [the slow start],” SCSU head coach Ben Betts, Jr. said following the game. “The guys really got after it in practice so it was a bit disappointing to see the intensity level not as high early in the game.”

Four S.C. State players reached double figures in the contest led by senior forward Thurman Zimmerman who nearly reached a double-double with 19 points and nine rebounds. Fellow senior Shawn Wiggins added 17 points, while freshman guard Derrick Davis added 16 points. Sophomore forward Brian Mason added 10 points along with five rebounds in the win.