Odom Impressed From Afar

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Some 10,010 Gamecocks fans filed into the Colonial Center for South Carolina's 64-52 win against Arkansas on Wednesday night.

Nice, but not quite like Arkansas, said fourth-year South Carolina coach Dave Odom, who was mighty impressed that 20,216 Razorbacks fans filled Bud Walton Arena during Arkansas' 68-67 loss against now-No. 6 Kentucky on Saturday.

Speaking of Kentucky ...

"Fayetteville, Arkansas, and the University of Arkansas are unlike any other team in our league other than Kentucky, probably, in that their fans are loyal to the end almost regardless of the record," said Odom during a press conference on Tuesday. "Kentucky never faces the other end. They haven't in our lifetimes. We don't know what would happen if they went 2-5 in the league as Arkansas is right now (2-6 after South Carolina's win).

"What we do know is that they are always there, 22,000 strong. I think Arkansas comes the next closest to that.

"If almost any other team in our league opened 2-5, what you might find - and this is what I've tried to point out in the SEC - is that you have to be careful how you schedule, because if you open 2-5, most home fans will throw up their hands and say, 'We're out of the championship. Why bother?'"

South Carolina is 11-1 at home, 0-6 on the road and 1-0 on a neutral court.

The Hogs have now lost 13 straight road games.

Formerly called The Carolina Center, the arena was renamed the Colonial Center in October 2003. Its doors opened on Nov. 20, 2002, with a seating capacity of almost 18,000.

He may have changed his mind after Wednesday night's rout, but Odom said on Tuesday he had been impressed with Arkansas' freshman frontline players - centers Steven Hill and Darian Townes and forward Charles Thomas.

"Last year inside, they were playing with a football quarterback (Matt   Jones) hoping to get drafted this year.

"They're anything but that now. They've got guys who are hoping to be drafted, but it's not by the NFL. These are legitimate, all-star freshman guys. They have three guys who all could be drafted in time."

Hill made his first start since the 25-point loss at Mississippi State on Jan. 15. He played nine minutes and missed his only field-goal attempt and one of two free-throw tries. He had 3 rebounds and no blocks.

Townes scored 6 points and had 4 rebounds, a block, steal and assist and turned the ball over 3 times in 31 minutes.

After getting off to a fast start this season, Thomas continued to struggle, missing his only field-goal attempt and getting only one rebound in eight minutes.

Odom considered sitting Gamecocks Josh Gonner and Antoine Tisby in this game because of broken team rules.

Gonner played three first-half minutes and made his only field-goal attempt.

Tisby did not play and Odom refused to discuss their situations.

Arkansas isn't the only SEC team that sports lots of talented freshmen, according to Odom, who coached at the ACC's Wake Forest before taking over the Gamecocks.

"There's not another league that can touch the freshmen class in our league," he said.

The Arkansas at South Carolina game was not televised in the Natural State.

But most Arkansans serving in the military had a chance to catch the Hogs late Wednesday night as South Carolina's 64-52 win was shown on tape delay on the Armed Forces Network.

The AFN reaches 177 countries and more than 850,000 service men and women, including those serving in Iraq.

ETVSports, which also aired the game on tape delay, provided the tape for AFN.

Former Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack, fired after last season's 5-6 campaign, was on-hand at Wednesday night's game and shook the hands of Heath and his assistants.

We didn't spot former Hogs running back and graduate assistant Madre Hill, who recently was named South Carolina's running backs coach, or new South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier.

Wommack, who will begin coaching Gamecocks defensive backs this spring, said he has settled in to his new job.

"It's going great," he said.

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