Odom notches 400th win, calls out big men
"Surely it was not the most pleasing to the eyes to watch," Dave Odom said to open his post game press conference. "I was very disappointed in the way we came out. We absolutely stepped on our own feet to start the game. The bottom line is we played hard throughout, if not well."
On a bitterly cold night in Columbia, it took the Gamecocks and the sparse crowd at the Colonial Center a while to warm up. Radford came out of the gates quickly, and took an early lead. The Highlanders scored the first four points of the game and led 10-5 after 5 minutes of play. Carolina responded with an 8-0 run and took its first lead with 13:50 left in the half. Radford tied the game minutes later, but never led again, as the 8-0 run turned into a 19-5 run. By halftime, the Gamecocks led 42-34.
Odom gave his club a fiery halftime speech, but to start the second half, Radford once again came out strong. With 14:41 to play, Martell McDuffy hit a three to draw the Highlanders to 54-51. Behind Devan Downey, who finished with 23 points and 5 assists, the Gamecocks embarked on a 12-1 run to quash the threat. Radford was still hanging around, down 72-62, when Zam Fredrick, who played one of his best games as a Gamecock, put the game out of reach. He scored and created opportunities for his teammates down the stretch as part of a game ending 18-1 run for USC. Fredrick finished with a game-high 26 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds.
"I think we got our things together down the stretch," Odom said. "I don't think [the game] was ever in doubt. Still when you look at the whole story, [it is] not a pleasant sight."
"Coach Odom gave us a pretty good speech at halftime. He got tired of being nice and went back to the old Coach Odom of 40 or 50 years ago," Downey joked after the game. "He told guys if you weren't playing hard you were coming out, and I think it got certain guys' attention. We've got to find our intensity. We've proven that we have the talent to win, but we've just got to go back to playing hard."
When he talked about his 400th win after the game, Odom downplayed the significance. He said that the milestone will likely be forgotten soon, but that it is a tribute to all those he has worked with over the years.
"It's a shared milestone," Odom said, echoing something other coaches had always told him. "I didn't disbelieve it [when they said that], but it kind of rang hollow. Once you step over that line, that's when it rings home. It is shared."
With the blowout and the injury to Brandis Raley-Ross, Odom had a chance to shuffle his lineup. Evka Baniulis started for Raley-Ross, and finished with 5 points and 5 rebounds. However, the more significant move involved Mike Holmes. Holmes, who had started five games this season, did not play at all. Odom explained after the game that he sat Holmes because he did not practice with enough intensity and consistency over the past three days.
"Monday: poor practice. Tuesday: worse. Tuesday afternoon: better. This morning: good," he said. "But in my mind, you practice every day or you don't play. He knows that. He knew that he wasn't going to play before the game, and our team knew that he wasn't going to play before the game. If he practices well between now and then, I expect him to be in the regular rotation on Saturday."
Odom's disappointment in Holmes was shared by the entire front court. He angrily criticized the play of the Gamecocks' big men, and said he would do whatever it takes to change the effort they show on the court.
"They are playing horrendous basketball right now," Odom said forcefully. "They are playing without passion, they are playing without pride, and they've got to stand up and I just told them so. I was planning to give them the morning off, [but] I'm bringing those big guys in and I'm going to do everything I can to get their attention tomorrow morning. They will be sorry they ever saw me tomorrow morning."
Asked again later about his big men, Odom became even more animated, raising his voice several times.
"There's no aggression," he said. "There's no outward sign that there's pride there. When they get scored on, it doesn't look to me like it bothers them. I'd like to see one guy one time just crack an opponent and not let him score, and take a foul. Take a foul like a man. One time. Just one time. Quit letting the guy score like it's okay. It's not okay, not to me it's not."
- The Gamecocks outscored Radford 26 to 9 on fast break points, and 32-20 in the paint.
- Mitchell Carter made two late baskets, his first points of the season.
- Austin Steed, Brandon Conrad, and Robert Wilder all saw their first action since the game against Campbell on November 28.
- Chad Gray continues to see an increased role, with 9 points in 24 minutes, both season-highs. He tied his previous season-high of 9 points in 17 minutes set in the last game against the Anteaters.
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