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Feb. 16, 2007

Columbia, SC – USC head coach Dave Odom met with the media on Fri., Feb. 16 to preview the Tennessee game (Sat., Feb. 17 in Columbia at 3:30 pm). Here are a few of his comments and the question/answer with the media.

Odom opened the press conference with the following statement:
“We had opportunities in the Vanderbilt game (Wed. Feb. 14), but we had a couple positions that did not shoot well. One was 1-11 and another was 1-7 and that makes that position 2 of 18. But we did not turn it over, got really good play out of other positions and we were in the game at the end to win it, but the bad news is we didn’t win it.

“I changed up practice yesterday. We have accumulated untold minutes for Tre’ and Brandon and maybe that is why we aren’t executing at the end of the game. Instead of going with our normal one hour and 15 minute practice at this time of year, we did some extra film work and then came out on the court and only shot. We went full speed on our shooting, but did not team work. We wanted to give them their legs back, get their bodies back and get fresh. I was trying to give us back as much of the edge that maybe Tennessee has (because they played Tuesday at home). That was the first time I’ve done that this year. We will have a normal practice today.

“Chad Gray will not play on Saturday. He is better, but he is going to need more rehab through at least Sunday. The plan right now is to put him back in a basketball shoe on Monday. We need to make sure we don’t play him too soon and not re-injure it soon.”

How is Tennessee’s Chris Lofton playing after his injury? (SEC’s leading scorer)
“He is running with no trace of any limp. He can score points in volumes quickly. He didn’t score one point against us in the first half (in January). He came out in the second half and tried to take the game on, but then he got injured. He doesn’t shoot from ‘3’, he really shoots from ‘4’ because he shoots from so far out. His game has developed so he’s not just a shooter or a scorer, but he’s a quality defender.

“Their team is playing much better. Wayne Chism is playing really well. Duke Crews is now coming off the bench. Chism is more offensive-minded and Crews is more defensive-minded. They are a formable team. They aren’t very big, but they are a difficult team to guard because they stretch you so far.”

How do you keep the team motivated through each loss?
“It’s really not that hard I don’t think. Everything comes back to me on the way I am going to approach games. If they detect I am going to throw in the towel then they would, too. But instead I work harder and let them know anything is possible. We change our goals from game to game. We try to coach them daily so that they get better. The players coming off the floor yesterday had to feel like our coaching staff is trying to help us get better. This is a unique experience for me, but it’s one I can handle. The thing is losing doesn’t get easier, it gets harder. But then you look inside and look for the courage to go forward. I am able to find the courage and am able to muster it. I try to move forward and get my team to move with me. I understand the frustrations of where we are and it’s easy to throw your hands up and say ‘next year’. But there are things and people I care deeply about. I care deeply about the seniors. Brandon Wallace has had an excellent year. He has had a phenomenal year in many ways and he has given me the courage to keep coaching. Tre’ Kelley is first team All-SEC. I am not saying Brandon is first team, but he certainly deserves All-SEC second or third team. I am accountable for where we are and I understand the situation.”

What about the home court advantage? Do you and your team talk about that?
“The home court thing is a factor. I had my staff look at the records around the league. We have yet to establish the home court as a haven for Gamecocks this year. I am in no way blaming the fans. I think it is our responsibility to play hard, to play well and to win; and then let the fans determine how they want to respond to that. When you look to the future we have to begin to establish one that is different than the one that exists. It won’t change in one day, but it’s something that can really help us. This is a source of concern. When you talk about protecting your home court, you send a subtle message that you can’t win on the road. The teams that are very good do win the road. The best teams I’ve been with play well no matter where you play. You don’t need a good home crowd to play well. You should play well anyway. The home crowd helps you make the play at the end of the game to help you win the game. When you look at our games this year – we did beat Arkansas here and the Auburn game was close, but Florida, Kentucky, Georgia – they have been disappointments to me. We have experienced disappointment. We have to try to change the way we play at home. It’s not too late to try and build the foundation for winning at home as you look forward to next year. We have to make a special effort to win at home starting tomorrow.”