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Feb. 1, 2005

USC Head Basketball Coach Dave Odom met with the media on Tuesday, Feb. 1 to discuss the Arkansas game and a variety of topics. USC will take on Arkansas on Wednes., Feb. 2 at 7:30 pm at the Colonial Center. USC is 10-1 at home this year and 3-0 in SEC play. Tickets for the game do remain.

The following are some of his comments.

“Arkansas is a big game for us. It’s a very important game for both teams. In my opinion Arkansas is one of the best young basketball teams in this league. They are athletic, long, well coached, well drilled and versatile. They got off to a quick start this year. They have already won 14 games and are in a good position to make post-season play. They might be 2-5 in the SEC, but they have played a tough schedule. Their performance against Kentucky is evidence the team is intact, feels good about themselves and are ready to make a real run at post season play.

“I feel our team will respond to the test. We had a good practice yesterday. The effort was there – the rest of I can handle. Tomorrow night’s game is the half-way point in the SEC schedule (for us) and I can truthfully tell you it’ll be a difficult test and we won’t play a more important game than tomorrow night. We need our fans – they’ve been very supportive of us. They will be supportive of us tomorrow night as well.

“We want to stay in the race. I am not saying a championship is possible in the SEC East – Kentucky is already 7-0 and they are in the driver’s seat. I don’t talk to the team every day about such things but I’m sure it’s on their mind. Mathematically it’s important for us to string them (wins) together now. You’ve got to stand up and play – this is a game we want badly.”

On the status of Antoine Tisby and Josh Gonner.

“I care deeply, my staff cares and the team cares deeply for each young man, but as much as I care – I care about our team more. There’s nothing more important than our team. I met with them on Sunday and on Monday. I told them I had to do what is best for our team. I said ‘I love ya, but I love our team more’. The team is more important than Josh, Antoine – the team is more important than me.

“So – is there a way we can serve both and be fair? The best way for them to help is for them to help our team. Is there a way to help them become us and still not lost the respect for the team – a way for balance? In the end, when a decision has to be made, there is no clear-cut answer.

“Both Josh and Antoine will practice today as they practiced yesterday. Then I’ll decide how much they’ll play tomorrow night. Whether it’s 3 minutes, whatever. Whatever I decide, I’ll decide as a balance between what’s best for them, gives them the best opportunity to learn and the best opportunity for the team. When they play the way they are capable of, they help our team and we are better. When they do anything less, our team loses. I have issued a challenge to both of them. We look forward to seeing them answer that challenge.”