Gamecocks set to face no. 22 ranked Rebels
Oxford is not the best location for the Gamecocks to try to extend a winning streak. Carolina has never won at Tad Smith Coliseum, and is just 1-16 overall in the state of Mississippi (the lone win came last year against Mississippi State). Ole Miss is 10-0 at home this year, and 25-1 at home over the past two years. Aside from location, the Rebels also present a challenge that they are one of the best teams in the SEC.
"They clearly are one of the top four or five teams in the SEC at this point," said Dave Odom. "We've got a big old challenge ahead of us."
The Rebels are led by freshman guard Chris Warren, who is part of a speedy backcourt that likes to push the ball up and down the court. Ole Miss also has a pair of 6'8" bruisers on the inside that could pose a real matchup problem for the undersized Gamecocks. The inside-out combination allows the Rebels to be both an up-tempo team, and one that can grind away in the paint.
"They have as good of foot speed as there is on the perimeter in our league," said Odom. "And then you get to their real strength, which is their inside guys. Ole Miss has the ability to draw you into their web because they have tremendous spurtability. You can be playing along with them, making plays, things seem to be dead even, and then a two-point deficit or a two-point lead turns into a ten-point deficit quickly. You've got to keep the game at a pace that is comfortable to you."
After the win over Georgia, Odom said there was a sense of relief that the team had finally rediscovered how to win. That sense of relief carried over into practice, where players were enjoying themselves again. Odom said it is important to "see more teeth" from smiling players at this time of season, because the excitement of conference play has worn off and the anticipation of the post-season tournaments has yet to set in. A win does a lot to generate some enthusiasm.
"When you've gone through an emotional upheaval over the last two weeks, after a while your team needs something that is tangible to keep them up," Odom said. "A win like the other night is the right order of medicine. There was more laughter in practice yesterday, more smiles."
- Rebels coach Andy Kennedy was Devan Downey's coach during his one season at Cincinnati. Kennedy took over as interim coach for Bob Huggins prior to the start of the season, but was not retained after the year. That decision was one of the key reasons Downey decided to transfer away from Cincinnati.
- The Gamecocks are likely to start Evka Baniulis at power forward again. However, with the size of the Rebel front line, Odom thinks it is important to use Mike Holmes and Chad Gray, neither of whom played against Georgia, to keep Baniulis, Dominique Archie, and Sam Muldrow fresh. Odom said Holmes has suffered from a lack of confidence that has led to his decreased playing time.
- Tipoff is at 5 PM, and the game will be televised on FSN. The Gamecocks are off this week, with their next game February 9th versus Vanderbilt.
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