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Jan. 11, 2006

USC Head Coach Dave Odom Pre-Game Press Conference vs. Ole Miss
January 10, 2006

USC plays at Ole Miss in an 8 pm (EST) contest on Wed., Jan. 11 in Oxford, Miss. Dave Odom met with the media today and talked about the game, taking it personal and a recent conversation he had with Antoine Tisby.

“Ole Miss has a much-improved talent level and team over a year ago. We played them the last two games of the year (regular season and first round of the SEC Tournament); they just beat you up. This year’s team is a more talented team. They have some new names, new faces and new bodies. They are plenty talented and we have a work cut out for us.

“It has been particularly tough to us the past (playing in Oxford), but I told our team not to concern ourselves that. I have plenty of ideas in my playbook, on offense and defense, and there are a lot of things out there to be tried. I won’t keep hammering our heads on the same piece of concrete. Some will be subtle and some will be obvious. I will not sit tight and continue to go down the road we are going down. Somewhere in there is a fine balance. I have to be more demanding of our team, our staff has to be more demanding and our team has to be more demanding of itself.

“I wrote two words on the board yesterday (in the team meeting room) – personal and caring. If we have a 40-25 lead against Tennessee only to lose it, I take that personally. I want our players to take it personally. I can get the game plans together for them and give them to them. I care deeply about our fans, about our basketball program and I want our players to take on that same emotion of caring. I won’t say the immediate future is a rosy one – what lies ahead in the next 2-3 weeks – I won’t sit here and bemoan that. It’s what it is. The good thing, we don’t have to play all those games in one day, we play them one at a time. You go on the road and play; and come back and regroup and move forward. I haven’t found what it takes to get through it yet, but we will continue to work, search and get through it.

“I messed with some line-up changes yesterday and not even they know what they are yet. I am certain there will be some line-up changes. Anytime you have personal adjustments most likely you will have some offensive and defensive strategy changes. There are a lot of ways to do things and we will find the way to do that. More muscle? That would be common strategy in a game like this, but I am not sure that’s what we need to do to be successful.

What happens in the games you’ve lost?

“Our perimeter defense in the Temple game and the Tennessee game didn’t get the job done. That was the common thing in those two games. The perimeter game against Pittsburgh – it was the same thing. We didn’t stop their perimeter guys. Clemson was a different story. The Clemson game they took it to us inside and we didn’t stand up. Marquette – there were some conflicting things there. We had some foul trouble. On the offensive end we stopped playing aggressively and stopped taking shots we did earlier.

“My staff has more than sent me through the ringer the last two days to substitute more. I think Renaldo got tired against Tennessee for sure. That’s too much for Brandon – even if he didn’t play a full 40 minutes. Tre’ Kelley needs more rest, too. I want the players on the bench to earn their opportunities for playing time. I worked on that yesterday with Dwayne Day and Antoine Tisby to get them to step up and I will work on that today as well.

“Tennessee had never won in the Colonial Center before last Sunday. USC had never won in Tennessee’s football stadium. I don’t hide that from my team – that we’ve never won in Oxford. Let’s say it and get it done. When I was coaching in the ACC people would ask ‘what’s the toughest place to play?’ My response, ‘tell me where the toughest team’. Wherever the best team is – that’s where it is tough. In Oxford they are right down on top of you. The students use it as an outlet from academic stresses. They play well to their crowd and it’s a great throwback arena. The trip is hard, but it’s the way it is.

“There are a lot of nevers in life, but one thing I know – nothing stays the same. Everything changes. And we have to get it going in the right direction.

“I have no problem with the effort of Keving Palacios and Ousmane Konate. They deserve more than they have gotten in terms of playing time. Ousmane is a basket of nerves. He wants to do the right thing so badly that he over does things. Keving played 17 minutes and played very well so we have to look at that, too. We have to go back.

“Antoine Tisby has the most experience and is more than ready. I know he understands what I mean when I say take it personal. I had a 40-minute conversation with him yesterday and it was one of the happiest moments of my life. I asked him if he was OK with playing five minutes the other night? He said ‘No coach’. I asked him if he wanted to know why that’s all he played. He shook his head yes. I told him to get a piece of paper out and take some notes. He accepts it too much, but he has to get to the point where he takes it personal. He didn’t – he takes it personal to the fact that he sat and watched the game for 35 minutes. He said some very good things yesterday. He is a good kid – I want him to take it more personal.

“It’s an emotional time for me. I want my team to play well. I want them to play well.”