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Feb. 3, 2006

USC Head Coach Dave Odom spoke to the media on Friday about the Arkansas game on Sat., Feb. 4. The game in Fayetteville will be on Jefferson Pilot television at 3 pm (EST).

“The mental attitude and atmosphere around our team right now is very healthy and very positive. By not practicing on Wednesday it should allow us to have fresh legs. But good news-bad news. Arkansas had the same day off we did. We have made some progress this week. Our goal was to get better physically from a conditioning standpoint. So we worked really hard to get ourselves in better shape. We have accomplished that.

“Renaldo Balkman has not practiced yet, but he is much improved. He was better than we thought he would be even today (Thursday). He has been upgraded from doubtful to questionable. I talked to Renaldo and our trainer Dennis Williams and I said I wouldn’t play him unless both of them felt he was 100% recovered. If he couldn’t practice the whole day today, I told him we would hold him out. Still, anything could happen. He is dressed today. We will wait and see what happens today. Everybody else is healthy and ready to go.

“This is a game, due to the nature of the Arkansas team, that we may use Osumane Konate and Antoine Tisby at the same time. Arkansas is probably the best-balanced team as far as inside, outside attack that we have played this year. They are very big and very balanced. Steven Hill is a legitimate shot blocker. Darien Townes had an excellent freshman season last year and he is certainly a much better low-post player this year. And Charles Thomas is a good inside-outside player. If we don’t have Renaldo we will have to use Konate, Tisby and/or Keving Palacios.

“They are very good and then combine that with the fact they are the most experienced team on the perimeter. They are excellent players and they have a freshman to go along with them, Sean McCurdy.

“I told our team don’t even get on the bus or the plane if you aren’t taking your heart, your courage and your will to win. I don’t want them to be afraid for sure, but I want them to be ready.

With Renaldo’s status – would Konate and Palacios get the same minutes as Sheldon or others?

“Bryce Sheldon has played very well and shot the ball very well in practice this week. Stephen continues to play well in practice.

“It will be a hard fought physical game up and down if we allow it to be and because of that we have to keep fresh people in the post. I am really concerned about our post defense and our ability to change ends. They run really really hard. They have these great athletes on the wings – Ronnie Brewer might be 1-2-3 in the league as a great player in the league. He can sense a steal coming or a long rebound and he shoots out of there. The big post guys minutes would come from Renaldo’s allotment.”

Are both teams looking at this game as a must-win?

“A must win in it will help us turn in the direction we want to be going. But not must win in terms if we don’t win the season is over. It isn’t a last gasp deal. A win tomorrow afternoon certainly will make practice and prep for the next game better.”

Has this week off been helpful?

“I know now it’s been good. You can take the pressure off the preparation of the game even for a short period of time and it helps. Practicing on Monday and Tuesday and not having to worry about winning on Wednesday, has helped. It’s helped the staff too.

What does Dwyane Day give to this team?

“He gives you another player in the line-up who can make shots. You can never have too many shooters. We knew all long that was his forte. But we needed to bring him along in other areas: dribble, pass, defense, without taking away his shot. Dwayne is faced with a real challenge tomorrow with Jonathon Modica. It’s not gonna be one of those games or match-ups where you can play it in a silk tie. Modica will force body contact and you have to draw body contact as well.

Has your leadership picked up this week?

“I want to compliment Tarence Kinsey. He has really grabbed the role of leadership by the throat this week. I want to compliment him on that. We have been through a tough stretch. He has been vocal and positive in team meetings and brought it to the practice court. Tre’ has picked up his leadership role as has Brandon.”

Tarence Kinsey on Arkansas, this weeks day off

“Those two days really got us rested and we got our legs back. Yesterday in practice we were really focused. We really want to turn this season around. The schedule has a lot of games at home and we want to try to win the rest of the games or a number of them. We are almost there. We had a let down against Tennessee and we learned from that. The game is not over until the end. The sense of urgency has been kicked in this week. Players came in and got in extra shots, ran through some new plays and it’s getting us a bit sharper. We are trying to get in better shape so we can run with anyone and still be able to slow the tempo down when we need to. Arkansas moves around. They are athletic and quick, but I think we can match their quickness. Having this week off has been so helpful.”