Gamecocks set to square off against LSU

South Carolina (12-14, 4-8 SEC) squares off against LSU (10-16, 3-9 SEC) Wednesday night in the Gamecocks' next to last home game of the season. Read inside for a full preview of Wednesday's matchup.


The Tigers come to Columbia with the worst record in the SEC. Their play was bad enough early on that coach John Brady was fired on February 8. Assistant Butch Pierre took over, and since then LSU is a much more respectable 2-3, including a 12 point win at Florida and 20 point win against Ole Miss. Dave Odom is so convinced the Tigers are better than their record that he erased LSU's record from the team notes the players use to go over the next opponent.

"I talked to the Florida people, and they said they were as talented as anybody they've played all year long," sad Odom. "They are a quality basketball team. John Brady told me, ‘I really think the reason they relieved me was that they were afraid we were going to start winning, and if we started then it would be hard to get me out of here.' That's what happened, they started winning."

The game will feature two of the top scorers in the SEC. Carolina's Devan Downey leads the league in scoring in conference games, with 21.0 points per game (his 19.7 points per game in all games is also best in the SEC). LSU's Marcus Thornton is second to Downey, averaging 19.3 points per game in conference play (18.3 in all games, fourth in the SEC). Thornton has the highest single game scoring output, though, having exploded for 38 points in a game against Auburn. In talking about Thornton's ability to scored, Odom called him a "microwave."

"There is no distance that is too deep for him to get up and shoot the ball," he said. "He's really got an outstanding jump shot."

The Gamecocks have used the same starting lineup in each of the past eight games, but Odom said Tuesday he may decide to make a change Wednesday night. With Zam Fredrick struggling tremendously over the past three games, Odom is considering moving Brandis Raley-Ross, who was a starter prior to his knee injury, back into the starting lineup. The move would be designed to take some pressure off Fredrick, who is shooting 7-32 (21.9%) over the last three games, including 1-14 from three.

"I don't know if I'll start him or not," Odom said. "I did have a conversation with him yesterday. I am disappointed for him, not at him. I tried to help him understand that he can help us in ways that aren't necessarily recognized by the public: rebounding, loose balls, draw charges, things of that nature. That's not to say quit shooting. I told him if we make a line-up change it's not to embarrass him."

Despite his strong play recently, Mike Holmes is not a candidate to start. If Holmes moved into the starting lineup, it would disrupt the Gamecocks' rotation because Holmes and Fredrick play different positions. Furthermore, Holmes is already playing starter's minutes, and Odom does not want to disrupt Holmes' rhythm be changing things. Holmes has put his name in the Carolina record books, though. With his back-to-back double-doubles against Florida and Mississippi State, Holmes became the first freshman since the Gamecocks joined the SEC to record consecutive double-doubles.

Including the loss to the Bulldogs, Carolina has lost four games this year that they were winning with a minute to play (George Mason, UNC Asheville, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State). Odom had the team work on some more end game situations in practice, but is not sure how much the work could help, saying, "It's almost like, how many ways can you find to lose a game." Then he made a prediction that, with the Gamecocks' luck, will probably come true.

"You look at the Vanderbilt game, the only thing that could top Vanderbilt was the way we lost to Mississippi State," said Odom. "The only way that you could top Mississippi State was if [Ben] Hansbrough hit the three to tie, and Evka [Baniulis] fouled him and he hits one [free throw] to win."

Notes:

- Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 Wednesday night. There is no television coverage.

- The Gamecocks have excelled against the SEC West this season, going 3-1. The only loss came last weekend in overtime against SEC West leading Mississippi State.

- After facing the lowest scoring defense in the SEC in Mississippi State, Carolina now gets a look at the lowest scoring offense in the SEC. LSU is averaging just 68.1 points per game this season.


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