Odom praises Pearl

Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl squares off later today against a man who inadvertently helped him get his job – South Carolina's Dave Odom.

Odom played a pivotal role in the dismissal of former Vol coach Buzz Peterson, beating him five times in eight meetings by an average of 18.0 points per game. In addition to thumping the former UT coach four times in Columbia, Odom gave Peterson a 34-point spanking at Knoxville in 2002.

Except for Alabama's Mark Gottfried, who went 6-0 against Peterson with an average victory margin of 17.2 points, Odom probably contributed as much to Buzz's demise as any coach in college basketball.

As a result, it's a safe bet that Odom was sad to see Peterson go, especially since his successor has the Vols cruising along at 9-1 heading into today's 1:30 tip-off in Columbia.

"You would have a hard time finding any new coach in the country that has injected more life and energy into his program than Bruce Pearl," Odom said. "I congratulate their players, and they are playing with great confidence. It is going to be a real challenge to hang in there with that particular style."

Odom's Gamecocks lead the Southeastern Conference in scoring defense, allowing just 59.9 points per game. South Carolina has struggled a bit offensively, however, particularly with its inside scoring.

"We have alternated players in there," Odom said. "I think we are searching more offensively than defensively right now. We don't always look good offensively. We did score 81 in our last game (vs. South Carolina State), but I think that is more of an aberration than something we can count on."

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