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Jan. 21, 2005

After a week off, South Carolina will travel to No. 17 Mississippi State Saturday, Jan. 22 for a 6 pm EST game before retuning home to host Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Jan. 26 at 8 pm. The game in Starkville will be shown on Fox SportsSouth.

USC is coming off a 66-63 win over Tennessee on Jan. 15. The Gamecocks had Wednesday night off, while Mississippi State traveled to Alabama Tuesday and were beaten rather soundly, 98-49. The Bulldogs are 15-4 and 3-1 in the SEC. They are led by national player of the year candidate Lawrence Roberts, last year’s SEC Player of the Year, who comes in averaging 18.9 ppg and 11.2 rpg.

Mississippi State leads the series 9-5 against USC and holds a 5-1 mark in Starkville. USC’s only win in Starkville came in the 1996-97 season when Carolina won 73-65 and captured the SEC title. Two of the last three meetings in Starkville have been decided by six points or less with last year’s game needing overtime for MSU to come away with a win (79-75).

The Coach Speaks

“We had Wednesday night off, and it was a much needed time for us,” said USC Head Coach Dave Odom on Thursday’s teleconference. “We tried to get as much rest and get back into our classes as much as we can. When you take time off in the long run it is good for you, but in the short run it can hurt you a little bit.”

“It was Alabama’s shooting,” said Odom on the MSU-Alabama game. “I don’t know who would not have struggled with their shooting that night. Ernest Shelton’s performance speaks for itself. It wasn’t what Mississippi State didn’t do, it was what Alabama did. It was one of those things that started off bad, and it got worse.”

“I think everything is situational,” said Odom on playing MSU after losing to Alabama. “Mississippi State is tough anytime, because they have good players and they are well coached. You play them as they come. It will be an emotional start for everybody. If we can make it through the first 15 minutes I think we will have a chance. We have to score points early and calm the waters defensively.”

Eyes Forward

USC is led by senior Carlos Powell who is leading the team in ppg (15.3) and rpg (6.3). Sophomore Tre’ Kelley is averaging double figures as well with 10.1 ppg and leads the team with 3.6 apg.

Their Last Time Out

Alabama’s Earnest Shelton scored a career-high 34 points and Alabama held Mississippi State without a field goal for nearly 15 minutes of the first half in a 98-49 victory Tuesday night, the Bulldogs’ worst loss in 50 years.

The No. 22 Crimson Tide (14-3, 3-1 SEC) allowed just three field goals in the first half for a 49-18 lead, shutting down the Bulldogs’ backcourt and denying star Lawrence Roberts uncontested shots at the basket.

It didn’t get any better after that for No. 17 Mississippi State (15-4, 3-2), which matched its second-worst loss, a 113-64 defeat at Louisville on Dec. 8, 1954.

A first in forever

Shooting 52.4% against Tennessee, USC has shot 51.3% in its last six games. The streak furthers on a first since 45-sec. shot clock was introduced in 1985-86 (35-sec. shot clock was adopted in 1993-94) and 3-point line was introduced in 1986-87.

Three of the games were played on the road, with two against top 10 teams (at No. 10 Pitt and a No. 8 Kentucky). During the stretch USC hit 50% against Pitt, 50% against Wofford, 53.6% at Kentucky, 51.8% vs. Georgia, 50.0% at LSU and 52.4% vs. Tennessee. USC was the first team in two years to shoot better than 50% against the Wildcats.

During the six game span, USC is 164 of 320 (51.3%) from the floor and averaging 70.5 ppg. On the other hand, during the six game stretch the opponent has shot 141 of 327 (43.1%) and is averaging 65.1 ppg.

The following are the only two times USC has shot 50.0% or better three games straight since joining the SEC: 1997-98 season (.500 vs. Alabama 2/11/98, .522 vs. Mississippi State 2/14/98 and .533 vs. Arkansas 2/18/98); and the 1992-93 season (.500 vs. Georgia Southern, .526 vs. Oklahoma and .533 vs. UNC-Asheville).

Smart Shooter

Carlos Powell brings a 59.6% field goal percentage into the MSU game, including a 68.3% clip against SEC opponents. Powell is making the smart shots, as he is just 4-16 (25%) from beyond the arc overall and 3-7 (42.9%) in SEC games.

Powell has shot 50% or better in 12 of the 15 games this season, including a dandy 70% in the last six games (41 of 59). USC has also shot over 50% (51.3%) during the six-game stretch.

Nail Biters

The Gamecocks have played in their share of nail biters this season. Eight games for Carolina has been decided by four points or less. USC is 4-4 in those games with three of the four losses being on the road to top 10 opponents (at No. 2 Kansas, at No. 10 Pitt and at No. 8 Kentucky) while the other loss was to in-state rival Clemson in overtime at home on a last second shot.

A Frown Followed by a Smile

USC this season is 5-0 following a loss. Three of the victories after the loss were decided by four points or less (East Carolina 57-53, South Florida 72-70 and Tennessee 66-63) while two others were decided by 20 or more (App. State 91-57, Georgia 74-54). The Gamecocks were 6-4 last season following a loss.