USC looking to snap SEC skid against Vols
"We did not execute in the last four minutes of the game (against Vanderbilt) the way you have to to win a game like that," USC coach Dave Odom said. "You need to be able to execute under pressure to win games like that."
With a losing regular season conference record assured, the Gamecocks will try to build some momentum leading up to the SEC tournament in Atlanta next month when they place host to Tennessee (18-8, 6-5 SEC) at home on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
In the season's first meeting, Tennessee guard Chris Lofton, who leads the SEC in scoring with 20.7 points per outing, took a quick exit to the game after spraining his ankle early in the second half of play. The injury would sideline Lofton for the Vols' next four games.
"He's at full speed now. I saw the Kentucky game yesterday," Odom said. "He's running with no trace of any limp. Obviously he can score points in volume, quickly."
Lofton, who was held scoreless in the first half against USC, didn't lose any of his range on the court despite the injury and will look to challenge USC guard and the SEC's third leading scorer Tre' Kelley for offensive dominance.
"He doesn't shoot from three. He shoots from four. He is so far out there. He can really put them up," Odom said. "He's such an accurate shooter when he is guarded. It doesn't seem to bother him at all."
While Lofton's offense causes major defensive issues, Odom knows that the post play of Tennessee's big men in Wayne Chism and Duke Crews is key, along with a much taller USC lineup against a Tennessee team made up of speed.
"I think the biggest change in their team between now and when we played them the first time is not necessarily Chris Lofton. He is who he is and has been and always will be. I think Wayne Chism is the biggest change in their team. He's taken over the center spot," Odom said.
"They're a formidable team. They're still not a very big team. They start Chism at 6-9, and it drops to Bradshaw at 6-4, and then you've got a string of 6-2's. But they stretch you so far. Their 6-2 actually becomes an advantage when you send a 6-7 out to guard him."
Despite his team's recent troubles, Odom is hoping to keep an upbeat mindset on a season that hasn't been what many hoped it could be.
"I understand the frustrations of where we are for everyone. It's easy just to throw your hands up and say, 'next year,' but I'm not willing to do that," Odom said. "I do think if you look to the future, and the future begins tomorrow for us, we've got to establish a mentality that is different than the one that presently exists. As you look to the future, I think that's something that can really help us."
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