Gamecocks return home to face Commodores

The Gamecocks (11-10, 3-4 SEC) conclude the first half of the SEC schedule Saturday night against the Vanderbilt Commodores (19-4, 4-4 SEC). The two teams opened the conference schedule against each other, with Vanderbilt winning 80-73 in Nashville.


The Carolina lineup that takes the floor Saturday will look very different from the one that lost to Vanderbilt the first time. It was not until two games later that Dave Odom went to the small lineup that he has used with success since then. Evka Baniulis, who will start at power forward, did not play at all against the Commodores the first time around. Mike Holmes started at center in that game, but has become a non-factor since then, averaging just 5 minutes a game, with one DNP, in the six games since.

"We certainly are [a different team]," said Odom. "It's a different lineup. We were playing Sam [Muldrow] and Michael, alternating them in the 5 spot, and now it's Evka. That was the first game where Dwayne [Day] played anywhere close to what I felt like he was capable of playing all along. Our style is different. We have kind of worked our way into a different style."

Reserve Brandis Raley-Ross made only a "cameo" appearance in that game, the first action he saw after injuring his knee. He continued to struggle in the next five games, before making a positive impact last weekend against Ole Miss. He scored 8 points, but perhaps most importantly, he was 2-2 from behind the arc. Raley-Ross is leading the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage, but the two makes against the Rebels were the first threes he made since his injury.

"There was a collective sigh" when he made the baskets, Odom admitted. "When he did hit it, it was: ‘yes, yes, maybe he's back.' Sometimes in a case like that, it doesn't take but one shot to turn him back. He has continued to play well in practice this week. Just the threat that he can make shots and has done so recently will really help us."

Vanderbilt has struggled on the road this season. All four of the Commodores' losses are on the road, and they are just 1-4 on the road in the SEC, with 20-point losses to Tennessee and Florida and a 16 point loss to Ole Miss. Their only win came at Georgia. Despite what the numbers say, Odom quickly refuted any notion that Vanderbilt is a bad road team.

"When you see the games, you know the games were [close]," he said. "Tennessee [has] done that to everybody who has been in there and you have to throw that game out. The Ole Miss game was very tight. [Vanderbilt] didn't play well at Florida. They just won at Georgia, and I am sure they feel pretty good about themselves. They did win here last year, so they've got some confidence coming in. Just because we're home and they're not doesn't guarantee us anything unless we make it happen."

Notes:

- Gamecock Greats Emmett Hall, Jim Slaughter, Darryl Martin, and Carlos Powell will be honored at halftime.

- Carolina leads the all-time series between the two schools 21-20.

- Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM. The game will be televised by FSN, with former Carolina coach Eddie Fogler doing color commentary.


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