Florida (16-3, 3-1 SEC) is coming off an emotional overtime win over Kentucky on Saturday, but South Carolina (9-8, 1-2 SEC) will be the team playing with emotion tonight. Gamecocks' coach Dave Odom announced his retirement last week after six-plus years in Columbia. Odom is 123-94 in the Palmetto State, but has just two victories against the Gators, both coming in Florida's first national title season in 2006.
"Basketball is losing a great guy, a great man," Billy Donovan said. "The last two years at the Final Four and the National Coaches Convention, both years, he'd stop by with handwritten notes to myself and staff wishing us luck."
Donovan said his relationship with Odom goes back to his playing days when Odom worked at the five-star basketball camps. Donovan paid Odom the greatest compliment during his press conference on Monday.
"If any of my boys were ever good enough to play at this level, I'd want them to play for a guy like Dave Odom," Donovan said. "He's always tried to be a great ambassador to our league. He's been a great guy for college basketball. I just hope he's personally happy."
Aside from the emotion, the Gators are going to have to also handle one of the league's best up-and-coming guards. Sophomore Devan Downey ranks second in the league, averaging 19.6 points per game. Downey's also dishing out 5.1 assists. Meanwhile, the Gators might be playing without point guard Jai Lucas who hyper-extended his knee against Kentucky on Saturday. Lucas is questionable for tonight's game.
"The have two terrific guards, Downey and (Zam) Fredrick," Donovan said. "Their ability to shoot 3s and playing at home coming off a win against Arkansas and how we respond after the win against Kentucky, it will be a difficult challenge for our guys."
Fredrick also averages double-digits, scoring 15.9 points per game. Forward Dominque Archie also averages 10.2 points and grabs 6.1 rebounds a game for the Gamecocks, but South Carolina is one of the few teams in the SEC that Florida can match up size-wise.
As a team, South Carolina shots close to 40 percent from behind the arc, and the Gators have struggled at times this season guarding against the 3-point shot. But on the boards, the Gamecocks are worst in the league, so Florida should have no problem winning the rebounding battle.
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Chris Chmielenski
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