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Jan. 4, 2005

Finishing the non-conference schedule with an 8-3 record, the schedule gets huge quick in the SEC when South Carolina opens the SEC season at Rupp Arena on Wednes., Jan. 5 against No. 8 Kentucky. The game will be shown on Jefferson-Pilot with Larry Conley and Tom Hammond making the call.

USC is led by senior Carlos Powell who is leading the team in ppg (14.5) and rpg (6.5). The Gamecocks host Georgia in an 8 pm game in Columbia on Saturday, Jan. 8 for their SEC home opener. Last season the Gamecocks averaged over 17,000 fans per SEC home contest.

“Any time you play Kentucky in Lexington, you are facing a monumental challenge,” said USC Head Coach Dave Odom. “It’s an interesting Kentucky team that Tubby has put together. When they want to they can go extremely big and power you inside, and when they choose to they can go very small with four perimeter players and be very quick. He has extraordinary depth.”

“South Carolina is playing very well,” said UK Head Coach Tubby Smith. “They have won some close games. I have been impressed with their speed and quickness. One thing we have to be conscious of is their press.”

USC vs. Wildcats

Kentucky is 34-5 against USC all-time. Carolina’s last win against Kentucky came in the 2002 SEC Tournament where the Gamecocks won 70-57. The last win for USC against UK in the regular season was in the 1996-97 season when USC swept the Wildcats winning in both Columbia (84-79, OT) and Lexington (72-66). USC won the SEC title that year.

The Gamecocks usually hold their own against UK at Rupp. Three of the last four games the teams have played in Lexington have been decided by seven points or less. One game between these two teams in each of the past four seasons have been decided by seven or less.

2000-01 Lexington 6 (69-63) 2001-02 Columbia 1 (51-50)

2002-03 Lexington 7 (62-55) 2003-04 Lexington 1 (65-64)

Their Last Time Out

No. 8/10 Kentucky held the Campbell Fighting Camels to 28.5 percent shooting and cruised to a 82-50 win Dec. 29 in Rupp Arena. Freshman Randolph Morris scored a career-high 25 points on 11-14 shooting. Senior Chuck Hayes narrowly missed his fifth double-double of the season with nine points and 10 rebounds. He also dished out five assists.

Open Your Eyes

The Gamecocks are 5-8 overall in SEC openers since joining the SEC in 1991. USC opened up last season with a 65-62 loss to Florida at home but won their road SEC opener 84-63 over Georgia. The last four conference openers for Carolina have been decided by nine points or less, with three of the four being decided by six or less, and two by three or less.

What others think

In the latest RPI rankings (Jan. 3), USC is ranked No. 23 (old RPI) and No. 35 (new RPI). Its strength of schedule on ranks as the 35th best in the country. In the Jan. 2 Sagarin rankings, USC is ranked No. 49 and its strength of schedule (SOS) is ranked No. 131. On the CBS CollegeSportsline poll USC is ranked 26th with an SOS of 83.

US vs. the SEC

Over the years, South Carolina has a 151-205 (.424) record against teams in the Southeastern Conference. The Gamecocks are 88-75 (.538) at home, but are just 45-111 (.290) on opponents’ home floors.

Since joining the SEC, Carolina is 86-126 (.403) in regular-season league games and 98-139 (.414) overall including postseason contests (USC played LSU in the 1996 Maui Invitational, and Alabama and Vanderbilt in the 1996 postseason NIT).

Overall, South Carolina is 58-81 (.421) in games against SEC East squads since the league went to a divisional alignment when the Gamecocks and Arkansas joined the league in 1992. The Gamecocks are 40-56 (.404) against SEC West teams in that same span.

Meant to be

The Gamecocks recorded 52 rebounds on New Years Eve against Wofford. It was the second time this season that USC totaled that amount of rebounds. The 52 rebounds is a Colonial Center record and the first time it was totaled was on November 27, 2004 against Temple.

Listed below are other Colonial Center records broken or tied in 2004-05:

Team Rebounds 52 vs. Temple 11-27-04, and vs. Wofford 12-31-04

Most FGM (Tied) USC 35 vs. Appalachian State 12-1-04

Most Points Scored USC 91 vs. Appalachian State 12-1-04

Fewest Rebounds 23 by Temple 11-27-04

OT Periods (Tied) 1 USC vs. Clemson 12-4-04, 1 USC vs. SC State 12-22-04

Off the Bench

Josh Gonner did not play against SC State after starting the first eight games of the season. Since the SC State game, Gonner has played against Pitt and Wofford, coming off the bench in both games. The senior has responded well by scoring a total of 35 points on 12 of 20 from the floor, 5 of 11 from behind the arch, and is 6 of 6 on free throws.

“Josh is an important player for us,” said Odom on Monday’s tele-conference. “I wasn’t please with how he was playing, but less pleased with how he was reacting to the way he played. He came back recommitted and acting as you would and should when things don’t go well. He is trying to be an important example for the guys on our team. If we are going to be the team we need to be, he has to play at the level he has the past two games.”