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March 7, 2006

Game Notes

Columbia, SC – The South Carolina men’s basketball team will travel to Nashville to play Mississippi State in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Thurs., March 9 at 1 pm (EST). Both teams are coming off Saturday wins with USC winning 67-63 in Auburn and Mississippi State defeating Alabama on Senior Day 71-58.

In the last match-up between the two USC defeated the Bulldogs 83-61 on Feb. 21, 2006 in Columbia in its most lopsided SEC win since a 23-point win at Vanderbilt on Feb. 16, 2002.

USC Head Coach Dave Odom met with the media on Tuesday prior to the Gamecocks’ departure. Below are a few of his comments and answers to media questions.

“We’ve had an excellent two days of practice. The team is in as good a frame of mind as they’ve been in in a long time. Everyone starts fresh and new at the tournament. Some have to win four to win and some have to win three. I’m pleased to be where we are and to have a chance to go to the SEC Championship – an arena none of us have ever played in. We have a pretty good feeling about the city of Nashville. We usually play well there.

“I look at Mississippi State and say three weeks ago we handled them well. But, this team is bigger, tougher and better. J. Gordon may of come of age in our game. He is fast and quick. They are really big so we’ve got to be very smart about how we attack their size. They bring the ball at your hard. With that said, I feel very good about our chances and our players are excited about it as well.”

Q: What about playing four games in four days to make it to the championship? Will that be hard on your team and will you make sure you don’t play any players too many minutes so they are fresh for the next game?

Odom: No, we will play everything we’ve got to win the first game. I hope we get to that problem in the fourth game and then we will grind it out with five guys. If I can last four games, I know they can.

Q: What do you expect from Mississippi State?

Odom: I fully expect they’ll raise it up a notch. They are better, bigger and tougher than when we played them three weeks ago. I fully expect a better team. They are 3-3 in the last six games. They were impressive against Alabama and it looked easy. They got on them early and they got on them late.

Q: What is the best game you’ve played this season and to what do you attribute that?

Odom: Marquette was pretty good. We played well up there (in the Great Alaska Shootout). Alabama here was good. Mississippi State was good. Our best segment was the fist nine minutes at Auburn in the second half. We really played well. We played great offensively in the Florida games.

The common thread? I think attacked the offense was the key in both the Florida games, Marquette and Alabama games. Our ability to attack offensively as a unit. We’ve played pretty good offensively this season and our defense has helped us to remain in games.

Q: Is it better coming to the SEC Tournament with your last game being a win?

Odom: Yes, there’s a difference. But in looking back on it teams that don’t play well going in, sometimes they play well at the tournament. I prefer coming off a good win. Practices are good and you go in feeling good about yourself. Auburn was a timely win for us.

Q: Who, in your mind, can win the SEC tournament?

Odom: Arkansas is playing as well as anybody right now. They have two things that help them be very good:

1. Size and guard play – they are really good on the perimeter and inside.

2. They have really good depth.

But, any of the semi-finalists (1 and 2 seeds) have a chance as well. I wouldn’t sleep on Kentucky either. They have a lot of history.

A tournament’s a tournament’s a tournament. They are all touch and we have to be ready. You have to play. We are really looking forward to it.