Gamecocks Recognize 'Must Win' Game

Never let it be said that Dave Odom down-plays the importance of certain games. On Friday, during his pregame press conference, he made one thing perfectly clear. The Georgia game is as important as they come, and the entire team is counting on help from the fans ...

"Georgia represents a huge obstacle right now because they are playing so well," Odom began his press conference Friday in the player's meeting room underneath the old Frank McGuire arena where so many big games used to be played. "You will have a hard time finding a team with four seniors who have been through so much together playing so well."

The Bulldogs will enter the Saturday tilt riding a wave of confidence, and knowing for themselves that each game is a must win for them as well if they hope to play this post season. But what about the Cocks?

"Right now confidence might be a bit of a problem, but playing at home in the Colonial Center certainly offsets that," Odom remarked with regard to his Gamecocks' psyche. "There is nothing like playing at home in front of a good home crowd to give you a lot of confidence ... to give you a real boost - a real lift."

"(against Georgia) We've got to play to the level of the enthusiasm of the crowd," continued Odom. "The SEC is tremendously well balanced. HIGHLY balanced from top to bottom, as any league in the country. We need this win and we're going to need the fans to help us."

When pressed for a degree of 'need', Odom made no bones about it.

"Tomorrow is a huge game ... make it as big as you want when you write about it. Yeah, it's a big game. A HUGE game."

So the strategy for Odom appears to be to wear down the Georgia starting five, four of which are the experienced seniors he referred to in opening. Wright, Stokes, Wilkens, Daniels and Hayes collectively average almost 32 minutes per game per player on the court. The Gamecocks intend to apply pressure for at least that many minutes of the game - but especially during the close.

"We have to play the final three minutes like we play the first three," senior point guard Michael Boynton, Jr. said Friday. "And I have to take charge. I tried letting (freshman) Trey (Kelly) shoulder too much of the responsibility against Florida. That was my fault."

Everyone seems to agree that Carlos Powell and Josh Gonner have been slumping somewhat lately as well. But Coach Odom believes being back in front of the home crowd will remedy that situation.

"Both of those players are emotional. Coming home will help them," Odom suggested.

Josh Gonner agreed.

"Yeah, call it a slump. I sure do. But I can't wait to get back on the court in front of our fans," Gonner stated enthusiastically. "My family and friends are a long way away from here. Right now I have my teammates as family. And I have the fans too. When we are home I feel like everyone in the stands is part of my family. I love playing at home in front of our crowds. I feed off of that. I can't wait!"

Gonner will get his chance. Odom had already decided the starting lineup for Saturday's most important game.

"I'll be Rolando Howell, Josh Gonner, Carlos Powell, Michael Boynton and Renaldo Balkman," said Odom. "Right now I like that lineup giving what we have to face against Georgia."

Ro Howell echoed everyone else's sentiments about coming home.

"It'll be good to be back home," said Howell. "We need this. We need our fans right now and it will help us playing in front of them Saturday. This will be a team effort between us and them."

Howell was also not bashful about labeling this game's importance.

"I can honestly say that this is a game that we need to win," Ro remarked with all sincerity. "If we can get this win then maybe we can relax a little bit ... we have not been playing well lately. Maybe we need a win like this so we can relax just a little bit. The fans will help us."

"We have to take care of business Saturday," added Boynton. "I don't think we're really lacking confidence. We just need to use this opportunity with the support of our fans to get back on a winning track. If we do, then everything else will take care of itself."

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