USC in Gainesville For Ash Wednesday Nite Tilt

Dave Odom's South Carolina Gamecocks, (20-6,7-5), are in Gainesville tonight for an important match-up with the Florida Gators at 7 pm. The game will be shown via a tape-delayed basis on the Sunshine Network. The Gamecocks are 21-29 all-time in the state of Florida and are 5-11 in the city of Gainesville ...

With USC a game ahead in second place of the SEC Eastern Division, both teams are itching for an SEC victory. Gators are 15-8 on the year and 6-6 in the SEC. The Gators had been in the AP top 25 for 94 straight weeks before falling out last week. USC had been in the top 25 the past five weeks before falling out this week.

The Florida Gators are coached by eighth-year Head Coach Billy Donovan. In the NCAA Tournament Second Round last year, the Gators lost guard Christian Drejer, of Hallerup, Denmark, last week when he signed a professional contract with a team in Spain and returned to Europe immediately.

Round 2

Earlier this season, South Carolina and Florida played another classic game in Columbia. Round two of the bout is in Gainesville where the Gamecocks have lost five in a row to the Gators. The last win for USC in Gainesville came in the 1997-98 season. The Gamecocks have dropped 10 of their last 11 games to the Gators and have lost their last six.

The first match this season saw Carolina only having two players in double figures. The Gamecocks usually average three scorers in double figures each game this season. Josh Gonner led the way with 18 points and shot six of 20 from the field while Carlos Powell was the other Gamecock in double figures with 12. Mike Boynton tied his career high of eight assists in the SEC opener. The Gators won the game 65-62 and were keyed by hitting 11 of 12 free throws and having two players with double-doubles. The Gamecocks hit nine of 14 free throws.

The month of love

The Gamecocks have seen little love in February so far this season as they are 2-3 ... Since Odom has been in Columbia, USC is 9-12.

Two straight OK -- neither had done three

Florida is pushing for its third straight series sweep against USC. Neither team has been able to pull that off - three straight series sweeps. Florida has won two straight series from 2001-02 -- 2002-03. The Gators also won two straight series from 1993-94 -- 1994-95 before losing 82-75 in Columbia. That win started a six-game winning steak for Carolina and propelled the Gamecocks to their own two straight series sweeps from 1996-97 -- 1997-98.

USC hasn't won in Gainesville since 1998 when the Gamecocks posted a 79-74 win at UF.

Florida has won 10 of the last 11 games between the two schools dating back to 1999. Florida won seven straight dating back to 1994 and then USC won six straight to end that streak.

Not one either of us like

Florida has lost four of its last six games and six of its last 10. USC has also lost four of its last six games with two of the losses to the then-No. 6 teams in the country (Kentucky, 64-65) and Mississippi State (75-79 OT). During those six-game streaks, UF is1-2 at home and 1-2 on the road. During that same stretch USC is 2-1 at home and 0-3 on the road.

Coach Speak

USC Head Coach Dave Odom and Florida Head Coach Billy Donovan both spoke to the media via the SEC tele-conference on Monday.

"The challenge that lies ahead of us is a huge one," said Odom. "Florida went through a couple of games where they had a difficult time. You have to respect Billy [Donovan] and his team for playing through that time. They've had some time to get past it, and boy did they ever do that. I was really impressed with the way they played [against Ole Miss] and the toughness their team showed."

"We played South Carolina early in the year," said Donovan. "I think like any season in the league, teams change. Certainly we have changed. South Carolina has changed. I think South Carolina has always been a good, defensively disruptive team. As the season goes on, you get a chance to see things differently. This league is so unforgiving. If you don't play well on a given night, you're going to lose."

Road Wars

USC has lost their last three games on the road in conference play. Last season, the Gamecocks lost four consecutive road conference games before getting their first win and then lost three in a row to end the regular season. Last year, Carolina was 1-11 on the road overall and a 1-7 mark against SEC foes but this season the Gamecocks have improved by going 5-4 overall and posting a 3-3 mark against SEC opponents.

Scoring 50 in one half

The Gamecocks have held six opponents to 50 points in one game but Arkansas on Saturday scored 50 points against the Gamecocks in the second half to beat Carolina 82-66. The 50 points by Arkansas is the most that the Gamecocks have allowed in a half all season. The previous high was 49 against Mississippi in the second half. Both of the games Carolina lost on the road.

Sold Out City

The last home game of the year, against Kentucky next Wednesday, March 3 is a sell-out. The Kentucky game sold out last Wednesday - two weeks prior to the game. About 50 tickets remain for the Georgia game on Saturday. USC has had four sell-outs this year.

The Gamecocks have played six home SEC games so far and have a record of 4-2. All six games have seen a packed crowd in the Colonial Center as 15,042 or more have packed the Center in those five games. (15,042 vs. Florida; 17,806 vs. Tennessee; 17,927 vs. LSU; 16,227 vs. Alabama; 17,792 vs. MSU; 16,092 vs. Vanderbilt). 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.

The Leader of the Pack

If the junior from Florence, S.C., Carlos Powell, continues to lead the Gamecocks in points and rebounding for the rest of the year he will be the first Gamecock to lead the team in scoring and rebounding since Linwood Moye during the 1984-85 season.

The rankings

USC fell out of both polls this week but did receive votes.

As of Monday, Feb. 23, USC is ranked No. 24 in the Sagarin ratings with its SOS ranking at 110 - a season high. On, USC is ranked No. 41 with an SOS of 94 - a season high. On, USC's RPI is No. 40 and its strength of schedule is rated at 109 - a season highs.

Home Sweet Home

The Gamecocks are 13-2 at home this season and continuing their strong performance in the Colonial Center having a 24-6 record their overall. Since the 1991-92 season, USC has had two losing seasons at home. The best home records coming into this season are 13-1 (1997-98), 16-2 (1995-96), 11-3 (1996-97) and 11-4 (2002-03).

Inching up

Who will get there first: Ro or 'Los? One should be the 41st in school history and the other should be 42nd - who will it be?

Rolando Howell is nearing the 1,000 point club mark as he has scored 938 points in his career. Howell needs five more blocks to hit the top 10 in all-time blocks.

Carlos Powell is nearing the 1,000 point club. Powell has scored 927 points in his career thus far. With the exception of the Vanderbilt win and the Arkansas loss last Saturday, he has scored in double figures in every game this season.

And finally, Mike Boynton, Jr. has entered USC's all-time top 10 for games played with 117. He is also inching up the list for career steals with 109.

Answering the bell

Freshman Tre' Kelley is starting to show signs of real maturity under the leadership of Mike Boynton, Jr. He scored a career-high 16 points in the win over Vanderbilt and followed it up with another career-high last Saturday when he scored a team-high 18 points.

He has scored in double figures the past four of six games (11 at Ole Miss and 10 vs. No. 6 MSU, 16 vs. Vanderbilt, 18 at Arkansas). Against UK he scored eight points with one assist in 12 minutes.

In loss at Ole Miss, Kelley tied a then-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 22-26 free throws (missing the first one against Ole Miss, one against MSU and then two against Vandy), 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 22 of his last 26.

Sold Out For Georgia And Kentucky

The USC Athletic Department announced this afternoon that the Georgia game on Feb. 28 is sold out. The Kentucky game was sold out last Wednesday.

The Georgia game represents the fifth sell-out this season: LSU, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Kentucky also sold out.

Tickets still are available for the SEC Tournament March 11-14 in Atlanta, Ga.

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