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March 6, 2007

Columbia, S.C. – USC head coach Dave Odom met with the media on Tues., March 6 to discuss the Gamecocks’ SEC Tournament first round match-up with Arkansas on Thurs., March 8 at 3:15 in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

Odom opened the press conference with the following comments:

“The Arkansas team that we are getting ourselves ready to play on Thursday is not nearly the team we played 3-4 weeks ago. The team we played was still trying to find itself and playing on the road at our place. Their perimeter people are entirely different, have grown up and play much more together. It makes it a much difficult team to play. Their same battery of inside guys are all still around. The most guy dangerous guy they have on their team to us is Townes. The new guy on the block is Michael Washington. He really has taken the place of Hunter in the rotation and he is off and running now.

“I was absolutely amazed with the play of Arkansas in the Vanderbilt game. No one can appreciate that more than I because we just played Vanderbilt. They pressed them, didn’t give them open shots.

“They are playing really well and to beat them we have to control the tempo. We have to get to their perimeter players quickly. They are running out a whole lot quicker. We can’t turn the ball over and we can’t take quick shots unless we are wide open. I would like to see us run because that is our best offense.

“They will have a good following there. Arkansas and Kentucky always bring a lot of fans. That’s ok, I like that. We practiced extremely well yesterday. I am going to try to get Evka back in the rotation. We need his shots and we need his minutes. I hope he has a good practice today because I want him to play.”

Your team plays well in tournaments – is there a reason why? “What I have tired to do is make a concentrated effort about a game and not the tournament. Let’s win a game and if we can do that then we can get the feel for what the tournament is all about and then talk about it more. I haven’t talked to them about someone making a four-game run – I haven’t talked to them about that. That’s a lot for freshmen. Let’s win one game and then start talking about it from there.

“Tre’ and Brandon certainly understand that it can be done and understand what it takes to get it done. Last year helps. In the dorms or going down on the bus or in the hotel rooms the subtle talk from Tre’, Brandon and Bryce to the younger players will help. It can catch up, but it’s better done on a one-to-one basis right now.”

“We beat Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State. Once the game starts it is how the game is played that night. We can draw some confidence from our win against Arkansas. Gary Ervin said yesterday it was a bonus to play South Carolina `because they beat us’. I think it’s a bonus for us too because we beat them.

“I will worry about Vanderbilt on Friday, but I think it’s a good bracket for us and certainly don’t want our team done on Thursday.”

Thoughts on AP SEC Player of the Year “If I had a vote for SEC Player of the Year I would vote for Tre’ Kelley. I have great respect for Chris Lofton and he has hit huge shots in his three years, this year included, but so has Tre’ Kelley. Derrick Byars also deserves it. Tre’, Derrick and Chris deserve SEC Player of the Year.

“I go back to a day you can’t remember because you weren’t around at that time – Ernie Banks and the Chicago Cubs and they were the worst team in baseball that year, but he was the MVP. Tre’ Kelley is being penalized by something that led to his team’s record this year – something he can’t control – it penalizes him for something he can’t control.”

“I strongly endorse Tre’. The fact he didn’t get player of the year by the AP doesn’t diminish him in my eyes. Chris Lofton is a great player and proud of him.

“I am extremely proud of Tre’ and Brandon. In Brandon’s case I told him while ago (this afternoon) and he was surprised. He is top five in steals, rebounds, blocks, minutes played – I am extremely proud and pleased for him. It’s a great thing for our program and university to have two guys on the AP All-SEC team in a year we aren’t where we want to be. They have represented us well. I hope good things happen when the coaches poll comes out tomorrow.”

To make the NCAA – you have to win the tournament. To go to the NIT – what do you think? “Win two games. That would give us a .500 record and I think the human element at some point would tug at somebody’s heart where they would say `man, that would be a great story.’ (if USC won three straight NIT titles)’

Quotes from Seniors Brandon Wallace and Tre’ Kelley

Brandon Wallace

On hopes of postseason play: “We approach this tournament the same way we always approach games. All we do is try to win. The only thing we can control is our own destiny. So we know that to have a postseason we have to win games.”

On the SEC Tournament: “If teams think that we’re going to be an easy out, they have another thing coming. Guys are going to go out there and give it their all.”

On postseason play: “Coach looks at it as 3 seasons-the preseason, the regular season, and the postseason. We just take that approach. All of the records go out the window now. Everybody’s 0-0. It’s like a new season.”

Tre’ Kelley

On being named to the All-SEC Team: “Obviously, it’s an honor to me. I definitely worked hard for it. I try to give my team everything that I can give them. When you give your team everything you can give them and it comes out successfully then I guess that’s an honor to have an accomplishment like that.”

On the SEC Player of the Year: “I heard it was Chris Lofton. That was a pretty good choice. He’s the league’s leading scorer overall. He played pretty good for his team. He missed some games, and when he did, his team struggled without him. That shows how much his team needed him. He’s a good player. I give him credit.”

On individual honors: “The individual honors don’t matter that much to me. I think we still have some fighting to do. It starts Thursday. We have a new season-the postseason. We’re going to try to go as far as we can, and be in every game, of course. We’re going to try to win every game, and try to win the championship.”

On the SEC Tournament and Arkansas: “We’re just going to go play. I think that there’s no pressure on us because of what people expect of us, and that’s nothing. We just need to go out and play our game and stick to the strategy. We’ve beaten this team before. I know we’re going to watch the tape from that game and find out the good things we did, and the bad things we did.”

On what to tell the freshmen about the SEC Tournament: “Just tell them it’s going to be competitive-just like every SEC game. It gets more competitive of course during the SEC Tournament because everyone’s there to win. Nobody’s there to just be there. I know that my team is not. We’ll be there to win it.”