USC Vs. UK! A Battle For First Place In The East!

No. 25 South Carolina, 19-3 and 6-2 in the SEC, travel to Lexington, Ky. for a 1 pm (EST) match-up with the Wildcats of Kentucky on Saturday, Feb. 7. The Kentucky game will be broadcast by Jefferson-Pilot with announcers David Steele (play-by-play) and Larry Conley (color analyst) making the call. USC is 7-2 in televised contests this year ...

The Gamecocks held off Alabama on Wednesday, streaking to a 12-0 run to start the extra period and won 90-82 for their second overtime win of the year this year in the SEC (Auburn). Kentucky defeated Florida in Gainesville on Tuesday night, 68-65.

Kentucky, 15-3 and 5-2 in the SEC, is the only program in the country with more than 800 career wins. The Wildcats are coached by seventh-year head coach Tubby Smith. The Wildcats were 32-4 last season and posted a perfect 16-0 record in SEC play. They won the SEC Tournament and made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. They return three starters and 12 letterwinners.

Need some love in Lexington

Kentucky leads the series with USC 31-5 and holds a 16-1 edge in Lexington. The Gamecocks defeated Kentucky 70-57 in Atlanta in the 2002 SEC Tournament but have not won since the 1996-97 season in Lexington. That is their only win against the Wildcats in Lexington. The Gamecocks also won their home game against the Wildcats in 96-97 on their way to their first SEC Championship that year.

Common opponents

Kentucky's two losses are against two teams that the Gamecocks defeated on the road. The Wildcats lost to Georgia at home (57-65) and lost to Vanderbilt by six in Nashville last Saturday (60-66). On the road against Tennessee, the Wildcats slipped past Tennessee 69-68 in overtime. The Volunteers are another team that the Gamecocks have defeated. South Carolina lost to Florida and Mississippi. The Wildcats defeated the Rebels in Lexington and the Gators in Gainesville.

Coach Speak

USC Head Coach Dave Odom and Kentucky Head Coach Tubby Smith both spoke to the media via the SEC tele-conference on Monday.

"Obviously going into Kentucky is a real problem for anybody," said Odom. "Since they played Tuesday night, they will have an extra day of rest while getting to play at home. So we have to be very careful not to burn off any extra energy that will be needed during Saturday's game. We've got to give our kids the best chance to be fully energized - I've been with my staff trying to figure that out all morning. I am very excited about this game. I hope my team is."

"South Carolina is having an outstanding season," said Kentucky head coach Tubby Smith. "I've been very impressed with them. They do a good job of pressuring opposing teams. We know we will have our work cut out of us. They are extending their defense, trapping and doing a good job of recovering. They also have eight or nine guys getting double-digits in playing time."

Three weeks and counting

USC remained in the nation's top 25 this week for the third straight week. USC is No. 25 in the Associated Press poll, after peaking at No. 24 last week. The Gamecocks are ranked No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll - their second straight week in the poll.

As of Friday, Feb. 6, USC is ranked No. 19 in the Sagarin ratings with its SOS ranking at 197 - both season highs. On, USC is ranked No. 44 with a SOS of 148. On, USC's RPI is No. 43 and its strength of schedule is rated at 183. USC is ranked No. 25 on and No. 27 by the Dunkel poll.

Hitting some serious 3's

The South Carolina-Alabama game showcased both teams display of the long range shot. 30 three-pointers were made (16 Alabama, 14 South Carolina). The 30 were the most by two teams combined in the Colonial Center. The 172 combined points by both teams is the most in the Colonial Center history.

The 14 three-pointers are No. 2 on the all-time list for USC, with USC only shooting more three pointers once: at Cincinnati on 2/15/97 USC made 15. A bit of an odd turnaround considering in its last home game, USC was 1 of 23 from three-point range, missing the first 22, in the 57-55 win over LSU on 1/24/04.

The 16 three-pointers by Alabama is No.4 all-time for an opponent in a single game. Seventeen is the record, set by three teams, with the last team being Charlotte on 12/2/00.

Rather have this OT streak goin'

The Gamecocks had a five game losing streak when playing in OT games heading into this season but the Gamecocks have ended that streak and have won two in a row. USC defeated Auburn on the road (53-51, 1/14/04) and Alabama at home (90-82, 2/4/04). The OT win against Alabama was USC's first ever overtime win in the Colonial Center.

Only one better

Dave Odom's 19-3 start is close to his best start ever as a head coach. In 1996-97, Odom pushed Wake Forest to a 20-2 record to start the year. That season Wake went to the Sweet Sixteen, falling 66-72 to Stanford.

Scoring 90, How?

The Gamecocks still prove to show balance as they had five players score in double figures on Wednesday night but the team scored 90 points. Adding the extra five minutes to the clock gave the Gamecocks their first 90+ point game since January 23, 2002 against Tennessee in Knoxville.

It also marked the second time that they reached 90+ under Coach Odom and it was the first time that the Gamecocks, or any team for that matter, scored 90+ in the Colonial Center. The Demon Deacons did it six times in Odom's last five seasons at Wake.

Our Newcomer of the Year

While Lawrence Roberts is wooing folks on the Western Division side of the SEC, the Eastern Division side has been getting to know Carolina junior Josh Gonner, who came to USC this year from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.

Josh Gonner continued to light it up as he scored 22 points on Wednesday night making it his third game of the season with 20+ points. The junior college transfer was five of 11 from the floor but hit nine of 10 from the free throw line. In SEC games, Gonner is averaging 16.8 points a game.

Against Ole Miss the junior had his second straight game with career-high five steals. He is currently second on the team in steals with 31 and second in ppg with 12.1. He scored a team-high 22 points in the 90-82 OT win over Alabama on Wednesday.

He has scored in double figures every SEC game. In addition he has scored more than 20 points or more three times against SEC foes: vs. Tennessee (a career high 24 points), Ole MIss (20 points) and Alabama (22 points). In his short career at Carolina, he has scored in double figures 13 times in 20 games.

He also said hello to the ACC with 13 points in the 76-61 win at Clemson and then dropped 19 points in the 58-55 home win over N.C. State.

In bunches

Three of the top four scoring performances this season have came against SEC opponents. Those three games were all wins. The top four scoring performances include:

Opponent USC Score

Alabama 90

SC State 86

Tennessee 85

Georgia 84

Our crowd

The Gamecocks have played four home SEC games so far and have a record of 3-1. The only loss came against the Gators in the SEC opener on January 7. All three games have seen a packed crowd in the Colonial Center as 15,042 or more have packed the Center in those four games. (15,042 vs. Florida; 17,806 vs. Tennessee; 17,927 vs. LSU; and 16,227 vs. Alabama). The LSU crowd of 17,927 was the largest crowd to ever see a basketball game in the state of South Carolina and the first pre-game day sell out.

Kelley's learning

In loss at Ole Miss, freshman guard Tre' Kelley tied a career high with 11 points (dating back to first game of his career vs. Gardner Webb, where he also scored 11 points). He was also 5-6 from the free throw line (both career highs), with two assists and a steal in 15 minutes.

Kelley has made 9-10 free throws (missing the first one against Ole Miss), dating back to the 84-63 win at Georgia. In fact, after opening his career making just nine of his first 20 free throws he seems to have found the winning stroke, hitting nine of his last 10.

Let's hope the first impression lasts one more time

The Gamecocks are 21-4 against teams visiting the Colonial Center for the first time. USC is 6-4 against SEC Opponents coming to the Colonial Center for the first time. The four losses were last year to Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, and Georgia while the Gamecocks defeated Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi. The only SEC team that had not came to play USC in the Colonial Center is Mississippi State (2/11).

We built it, they did come

Since building the Colonial Center, USC has played 28 basketball games in it. Out of the 28 games, 18 have had games with an attendance of 10,000 or more. In those 18 games, USC is 13-5 playing in front of 10,000 or more people in the Colonial Center.

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