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March 26, 2005

After Maryland’s 85-73 over TCU, USC Head Coach Dave Odom met with the media to discuss the Gamecocks NIT semi-final match-up with Maryland on Tuesday, March 29. The game will be shown on ESPN2 with a 9:18 pm tip-off. Maryland enters the game 19-12 and 7-9 I the ACC, while the Gamecocks are 18-13 and 7-9 in the SEC.

Coach Odom opened the press conference with a few brief comments:

“We know today Maryland’s our opponent Tuesday night. Now we can go back and concentrate on an opponent. Our practice today went really well. It was looser and we are trying to get our legs under us. Tarence Kinsey’s back is a bit stiff today, but every day he comes back for rehab he will get better. The players will take the rest of the day off and pack. We will meet tomorrow and practice in the afternoon.

We fly out at 4 pm tomorrow and we are set for our trip. We are looking forward to it. Mentally, I think we are in really good shape right now. We are relaxed, refreshed and excited about going to New York. We earned it. We played really good teams to get there and I would say of the final four teams, none of them has played better competition than we have played. Maryland, Memphis and South Carolina have played all three of its games at home. Only St. Joe’s has proven to be battle-tested on the road.

On Maryland Maryland has a lot of depth, they are long and lean and athletic. They can be torture to play against when they are playing great defense. Offensively they are inside orientated and can shoot the three. I think from what I have seen of Maryland this year, which is very limited, they look to be very much like a Gary Williams-type team. They come in with a very good resume, beating Duke twice, and so that tells us right away they are a good basketball team.

Beyond that, we want to make this a fun but purposeful trip. We need to remember the basketball is what brings us to New York. They need to pull a curtain down and separate the fun activities of the NIT and the basketball games. John, Jon and Carlos have been there, and know the real fun lies in winning and playing your best in Madison Square Garden. That is the attitude we want to embrace in New York.

This could be an up and down game. There is nothing to hold back now. Anything you have used this year you want to pull it out. You don’t save anything now. You let it all go. The game could get up in the high 70s, but it could settle in at the mid-60s.

They are longer and leaner and more athletic than we are, but I still think we have a chance. They have good personal. They will be difficult to handle.

How does Maryland beat Duke twice and lose three times to Clemson?

Clemson is better than everyone thinks they are. Beating Maryland three times is extraordinary. Maryland beating Duke twice is exceptional. It shows you more than anything, style of play. Maryland’s style of play must bother Duke more than other teams. Gary Williams has played Coach K a number of times over the years and so he knows some things about their teams.

Do you know Gary Williams well?

We are very good friends. We came in the league at the same time with both teams down. We traded some wins early on and then the mid-part of the 90s Wake Forest might have won a few and then at the end they got us a few times. I don’t think we played against each other before we both went to Maryland and Wake Forest schools. But we knew each other prior to taking those jobs.

Does this extra practice help you next year? Does it help you improve?

I think the biggest opportunity to improve, if you can go deep into the NIT, is the mental aspect. It can help you mentally. You have won 2-3-4-5 extra games and you feel much better about yourself. I tell you what happened with our team, some of those that weren’t playing well in February are playing well now. Renaldo Balkman is one of those. Antoine Tisby is now a positive factor for us and a force to be reckoned with. Tre’ Kelley played well in January, not so well in February but he is playing well again.

Carlos Powel is playing right now like he wants people to see him play. He wants to play again someplace next year. It’s not selfish; he’s just playing very well. He is pumping weights with a purpose. He is doing well in practice. It’s fun to see as a coach. You see seniors, after their eligibility is over; you see them lifting more, working out. But not Carlos. He is really into it.

Brandon Wallace is another example. He may have benefited the most by playing in the NIT. He is playing very well. He is more aggressive and his confidence level is up and that’s something that we take into the off-season.

What is the difference between this year’s team and the team in 2002 that went to the NIT Finals?

The difference between this year’s team and the team in 2002 – experience. We had a lot of players with experience and they were much older than this year’s team. But whatever inexperience this team has, they have a prior level of success that the 2002 didn’t have. On this team, everyone has been to a post-season now. That year that wasn’t true. That team was bigger in the frontcourt and quicker in the backcourt. This team is a bit better at scoring the ball. The common denominator is both teams are playing their basketball at the right time.