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Feb. 27, 2006

USC Head Coach Dave Odom talked about the LSU game on Monday afternoon with the media. The LSU game is set for 7 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 28 in Columbia. Tickets are available for the last regular season home game.

“In playing LSU we most certainly are facing the most talented in the SEC, the most talented young team in the SEC and quite probably the best team in the SEC. LSU is one of the four best young teams in the country. Memphis being one, certainly North Carolina and a couple two-three more but I think Kansas would be the fourth. That’s four really good young teams that are talented and well coached. It’s a tribute to John Brady (LSU head coach), their staff and players. Sometimes you see these records at the end of the year and you think they padded the schedule – not true with LSU. They played some tough teams on their home courts. They have had a banner year and I know they have great motivation for the game with USC. They would be outright champs if they win and that’s a lot to work for.

“I continue to be amazed with this team. We practiced one hour yesterday and we got a lot done. I know we will have a good practice today. The obvious challenge for us, in my view: they have two All-SEC performers in Darrel Mitchell outside and Glen Davis inside. Two guys averaging 18 points and a bunch of assists and rebounds. In last year’s game at Baton Rouge Glen Davis lived at the foul line. He was a difficult challenge. What makes him so good is that he is 6’10, 305 lbs. but he carries it like he’s 225. He takes on your whole front line and puts fouls on you. He moves well, like a deer.”

Odom then talked about the Georgia and Vanderbilt games – both of which they lost by one point. And what they plan to work on this week.
“We got good looks in both games we lost, but when you go back and look at the games in their entirety it’s not just that. We had 21 turnovers versus Georgia. Georgia only scored 47 points, but we have to be good enough at this time of the year that we don’t make those turnovers so we aren’t in good position to win at the end. Your defense can only hold you so long and our offense just wasn’t able to step up (in Vandy game). I have always had a player or players you could go to in the clutch and at least put them in a position of strength and the worst you get out of it is a foul and a one and one to break your scoring slump. In particular a post player. It’s been a thorn in my side and my team’s side. We have to keep searching for that and keep our spirits up.

“It would be easy to say let’s throw everything into next week. Let’s change everything this week, but in truth this week is very important to us. We have to concentrate on LSU and I believe we can beat LSU. Very few people will give us a chance and I understand that. Great stories are written when the cloud is the darkest. We aren’t giving into the SEC (Tournament) will save us. I want to go after a really good LSU tomorrow night.

I don’t think you will see much of a change in the line-up, but I haven’t made up the line-up yet. I don’t think I would change what you saw the other night (Kinsey, Kelley, Trice, Tisby, Wallace).

Q: Coach Brady believes Tyrus Thomas will not play. What do you think?

A: “My guess is Tyrus Thomas will not play. If he doesn’t play they will throw in a two-year starter and that does weaken their bench a bit. But what that means is you will see more of Darrel Mitchell and Glen Davis. If it turns out Thomas doesn’t play that is one less shot-blocker they have got.

“You look at their team and they are one of the best young teams in the country, yet they are one of the best teams in the country. As far as local talent they have been playing together since kindergarten. They have done a good job of corralling the talent.”

Q: Do you worry the team will feel sorry for itself?

A: “I am sure already they feel that way. If my teams doesn’t feel bad about the position we are in, then I don’t know my team. I think they aren’t happy go lucky. I thought we would have a very good team this year. I didn’t envision all the close losses, but we have got them and we could say woulda coulda shoulda. If we had a string of good luck we could have 19 wins, but there is no reason to sit around and be-moan that fact. I think we are feeling bad about the situation we are in, but I appreciate the way they have responded to my urging. I have refused to give into that type of feeling. We haven’t always played well, but we have played hard. You can feel badly about not playing well, but you should not feel ashamed if you played hard. They have great sorrow and feel badly for the fans and themselves and that is ok.

“We have plenty of time to get ready for our next game. This is our third game in five or six days. I am not fatigued. My mind is not fatigued. These are young guys that can stand the pain, the practice. I think the way they practiced yesterday they are buying into it.”

Q: Have you done anything to get them to relax?

A: “When you aren’t particularly confident, you do struggle with personal tension. A guy like Tarence Kinsey has been our most trusted shooter from distance. In the last 2-3 games he has exerted great energy to deliver us (points). The more he does that the harder it is for him to make an easy jump shot. I did talk to him post-Georgia and talked to him about the game of basketball. It’s a game played by kids and sometimes adults. A game by definition is not life or death and they do need to relax and have some fun. But it’s difficult to do that when you are under the microscope. It’s hard to do that and your coaches are on you, the media are critiquing what you are doing and the fans can be hard at times. We forget that we are dealing with kids that not yet adults and it’s hard for them to relax. It’s a serious game, because of where we are and what we wanna do, but it’s still a game – we shouldn’t treat it as it’s going to be life changing. So let’s try to relax and have some fun. But at the same time you don’t want the idea of relaxing to appear they are saying ‘why us?’ You don’t want it to go to the opposite pole that you don’t care. It’s hard to find that, but you will.”