SC's Very Important Game Today - Watch It

South Carolina, 21-9 and 8-8 in the SEC, finished third in the SEC Eastern Division. As the No. 3 seed from the Eastern Division, USC will face the No. 6 seed from the Western Divsion, Arkansas, this afternoon Thursday, March 11 at 3:15 pm., in the First Round of the SEC Tournament in Atlanta, Ga. The game will be televised on JP and the broadcast will feature Tom Hammond (play-by-play) and Larry Conley (color) ...

The first meeting between the two schools this season resulted in an 66-82 Razorback win in Fayetteville on Feb. 21, 2004. The only time the two played in the SEC Tournament USC fell 58-80 in New Orleans in 1996.

Arkansas enters the game at 12-15 overall and finished 4-12 in the SEC. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games, including the win over USC on Feb. 21.

The Razorbacks are headed up by second-year head coach Stan Heath. UA was 9-19 last year with a 4-12 SEC record. They finished tied for fifth in the SEC West. They returned two starters and eight letterwinners.

Prior to the loss in February, USC had won the last two meetings at Arkansas, including a 62-60 win at Arkansas in 2002 and a 76-65 win in 2000. South Carolina has pulled out three of the last five in the series.

Coach Speak

USC Head Coach Dave Odom and Arkansas Head Coach Stan Heath both spoke to the media via the SEC tele-conference on Monday.

"We played Arkansas two or three weekends ago and we did not play well," said Odom. "They played extremely well. They've got a cast of thousands that they play. We really had a problem with their substitution pattern. We didn't do a good job of matching up, and that's a real concern of mine. They're a very young team, but a very talented team. They gave us all kinds of trouble. Our team right now needs a good dose of confidence, and the only way you get any confidence is to practice hard this week and try to get ourselves in order."

"[The selection committee] has a very difficult job and they will do the best they can based on the information they have," continued Odom. "We have, in fact, ended [two] important chapters. One is non-conference play; the other is conference play in the regular season. We can't change that. But I'm very comfortable with where we are. Our team has had a very good year. We had a difficult finish. Some of that was in our control, and some of that was out of our control."

"We're excited to maybe get a fresh start on our season right now," said Heath. "Right now, everybody is familiar with everybody and has a pretty good feel. South Carolina is very aggressive; they'll put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of different ways. They'll be very hungry. We need to come out and play at a high level with a lot of excitement. We're going for broke. We have nothing to lose and everything to play for."

Odom in conference tournaments

Gamecock third-year head coach Dave Odom is 11-13 in his career in conference championship tournaments. He was 0-1 while at East Carolina, losing in the 1982 ECAC-South Tournament. He went 9-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament, with Wake Forest winning the 1995 and 1996 titles and his Demon Deacon teams advancing to at least the semifinals five times.

He has a 2-2 record in the SEC Tournament. His first season he saw the Gamecocks make the semi-finals of his first SEC Tournament, posting a 2-1 record. Last year USC fell in the first round to Ole Miss.

Gamecocks vs. conference tournaments

South Carolina is 10-12 all-time in the SEC Tournament, with four semifinal and one finals appearance in 12 seasons (complete details to the left). All-time, South Carolina is 35-54 in conference championship tournaments, going 10-18 in the Southern Conference classic (1922-52), 13-17 in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament (1953-71), and 3-8 in the Metro Conference Tournament (1983-91). Carolina captured the 1933 SoCon and 1971 ACC tourney titles.

The rankings

As of Monday, March 8, USC is ranked No. 31 in the Sagarin ratings with its SOS ranking at 73 - a season high. On collegerpi.com, USC is ranked No. 44 with an SOS of 73 - a season high. On Sportsline.com, USC's RPI is No. 43 and its strength of schedule is rated at 81 - a season high.

Scoring 50 in one half

The Gamecocks have held seven opponents to 50 points in one game but Arkansas 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.

Not that guy again

If the Arkansas game was televised, USC fans might see a familiar Razorback FOOTBALL player in the line-up against the Gamecocks. On the hardwoods, forward Matt Jones is averaging 5.2 ppg and 4.8 rpg and has started nine of the 16 games he has played in this year.

As a quarterback on the gridiron versus the Garnet and Black, televised nationally on ESPN, Jones was 11-14 for 148 passing yards and three touchdowns in Little Rock in 2003, coming away with a 28-6 win. Jones also carried the ball three times for 11 yards. Jones led the Razorbacks to an Independence-bowl berth.

Inching up

Mike Boynton, Jr. is in USC's all-time top 10 for games played with 121 - he needs to play in two more games to tie the school record for games played. He is currently sitting at No. 5, tied with Tony Kitchings, Barry Manning and Jamel Bradley. He is also inching up the list for career steals with 112 and is tied at No. 12 on the school's all-time top 10 list with Larry Davis.

With Rolando Howell's career ended due to a fractured wrist, Carlos Powell will most likely be the next Gamecock to score 1000 career points. Powell has scored 957 points in his career thus far. With the exception of the last four games prior to his scoring 15 against Kentucky and the game at Tennesse, he has scored in double figures in every game this season.

Turnover, Rebounds - in the bonus

This season, USC has turned the ball over a total of 401 times and averages 13.4 a game. Seven times this season they have had their turnover total at 10 or less, including the nine vs. LSU. During the 2002-03 season, USC accomplished this feat only four times.

Last season USC was out-rebounded or equaled their opponents total 19 times. The Gamecocks went 5-14 in those 19 games. This season, Carolina has been out rebounded or equaled the opponents a total of 16 times. USC is 13-4 in those 17 games.

The Leader of the Pack

If the junior from Florence, S.C., Carlos Powell, continues to lead the Gamecocks in points (12.4 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg) 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. Last year he led the team with 12.6 ppg and 4.3, good for fourth on the team.

10 or less

The Gamecocks came into the season turning the ball over 10 or fewer times 13 times under Coach Odom. This season, USC has accomplished this task seven times. USC is 6-1 in those games. The Gamecocks are averaging 13.4 turnovers a game this season. Since the 1971-72 season, the lowest total per game is 13.3 in 1978-79 and in 2002-03.

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