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Dec. 27, 2004

South Carolina, 7-2, travels to No. 10 Pittsburgh (AP) for its second-to-last non-conference game of the year when the two meet for the sixth time on Wednes., Dec. 29 at 7:00 pm. The game will be shown on both CSS and ESPN Regional. After traveling to Pitt on the 29th, USC will return for a 6 pm showdown with Wofford on New Year’s Eve to finish off the non-conference slate.

Carolina took one week off for the holidays. Prior to that the Gamecocks played four games in eight days, wracking up a 3-1 record during that stretch. Its wins included a 72-70 win over South Florida (Dec. 14), a 57-53 vs. East Carolina (Dec. 20) and a 68-65 overtime win over South Carolina State (Dec. 22). Its lone loss was a four-point one at No. 2 Kansas on Dec. 18, 60-64.

What they think

In the latest Sportline Top 25 poll USC is ranked No. 27 (Dec. 27). In the latest RPI rankings (Dec. 27), USC is ranked No. 50. In the Dec. 24 Sagarin rankings, USC is ranked No. 56 and its strength of schedule is ranked No. 172.

US vs. Them

USC is 5-0 lifetime against Pittsburgh, including 2-0 in Pittsburgh. The first meeting occurred in 1934 and the last in 1976 – a 79-72 Gamecock win on Valentine’s Day. The two schools played a four-game home and home series that stretched over a five-year period from 1971-72 – 1975-76. Pittsburgh will return the favor next year, traveling to play the Gamecocks in The Colonial Center during the 2005-06 season. Four of the five games with the Panthers have been decided by 10 points or less and three of the five have been decided by seven or less.

USC Head Coach Dave Odom has not met Pittsburgh before and it will be a first-time meeting for Pitt coach Jamie Dixon as well.

Pittsburgh is a member of the Big East Conference and the meeting will be Carolina’s first regular season meeting against the Big East since its 67-59 loss at Georgetown on Dec. 5, 2002. The Gamecocks hosted Georgetown (L, 70-68) and Providence (W, 67-48) in the 2001-02 season. In post-season Big East action, USC defeated Syracuse 66-59 in the semi-finals of the NIT Tournament on March 26, 2002.

A Quick Overview of the Panthers

Pittsburgh is 9-0 on the year. The Panthers are winning their games by an average of 23.6 points per game — 78.3 points to the opponents 54.8. The Panthers highlight wins was over then-ranked Memphis, a 70-51 triumph at Madison Square Gardens.

Last year the Jamie Dixon-coached Panthers were 13-3 in the Big East (1st) and 31-5 overall. Winning the regular season title, they fell short of the Big East’s NCAA Tournament automatic bid when the dropped a 58-61 decision to eventual NCAA champion Connecticut at the Big East Conference Tournament. They advanced to the Sweet 16 with wins over Central Florida (53-44) and Wisconsin (59-55), before falling to Final Four participant Oklahoma State (51-63). Pitt returns 10 letterwinners and three starters for second year head coach Jamie Dixon.

No time for the weary

No. 2 Kansas was Carolina’s first contest this season against a ranked opponent. Carolina will face a total of five teams that are ranked in either the AP or Coaches poll this season: Kansas, Pittsburgh, Kentucky (twice), Mississippi State and Alabama. Next up: No. 10 Pittsburg on Dec. 29 in Pittsburgh. A New Year’s Eve date with Wofford and then USC opens the SEC season at No. 8 Kentucky in Rupp Arena. USC has only one win at Rupp Arena in its history: a 72-66 win over then-No. 3 Kentucky on March 2, 1997. The win clinched the SEC title for the Gamecocks as well.

Ranked, non-conference style

The last win against a non-conference opponent came on Feb. 1, 1998 against No. 20 Cincinnati in Columbia. Carolina won that day, 67-65. The previous year, Carolina defeated No. 15 Cincinnati in Cincinnati 97-83 for the last victory against a non-conference ranked opponent on their home court.

Rocky, Rocky, Rocky

The past couple of games, Rocky Trice has came through to help out the Gamecocks. The junior guard has scored back to back career highs in points (nine vs. East Carolina and 10 vs. SCSU). Against East Carolina he hit USC’s only three pointer of the day late in the second half, helping secure USC’s win in Mobile. The start against SC State (Dec. 22) was his first start of his career. He responded rather well, collecting 10 career/season bests.

Arms made for Blocking

Brandon Wallace has been a blocking machine as of last as he has blocked seven shots in his last two games. Wallace had four blocks against East Carolina and three against SC State. Wallace also grabbed 10 boards in the win over SC State. The 10 rebounds are one shy of his career high that came against the Citadel on December 3, 2003 when he collected 11 boards in his first career start.

More Minutes

This season the Gamecocks have played two overtimes games. The last time Carolina had at least two non-conference basketball games that needed to be decided by overtime was the 1993-94 season when USC faced the following in extra stanzas: SC State (W 94-89 in 2 OT’s), Campbell (L 73-72) and College of Charleston (W 65-53). The most overtime games that Carolina has had in a season against non-conference opponents is three which occurred in both the 1993-94 season and the 1958-59 season. Carolina has never played more than three games in a season that needed overtime.

A little more on the OT’s

Against SC State, Carolina scored 11 points in overtime with nine of the 11 coming from Tarence Kinsey and Tre’ Kelley. USC’s only other overtime game this season was against Clemson on Dec. 4th. The Gamecocks also scored 11 points in overtime against the Tigers. Tre’ Kelley scored five, while Carlos Powell added four and Renaldo Balkman chipped in two. Kelley has scored 11 of USC’s 22 points in overtime and is 3 of 5 from the floor and 4 of 8 from the free throw line.