Feb. 1, 2008
Columbia, SC - USC head coach Dave Odom spoke to the media to preview the Ole Miss game today. The game is in Oxford on Sat., Feb. 2 at 5 pm and will be televised on FSN.
Odom's opening comments: "They have as good a foot speed on the perimeter as there is in the league and that includes Tennessee. They have replaced most of their perimeter players and they did an excellent job in that. Eniel Polynice is the most improved player in the league. Their real strength is the inside guys. Upstairs a few minutes ago my assistant coaches told me we have to play Chad, Mike and Mitchell or they will wear us out.
"When you look at Ole Miss and as I watched the Vandy game from the other night - the game is going as fast as roadrunners. They have the ability to draw you into their web because they have tremendous spurt-ability. Things seem to be dead even and then a two-point deficit turns into a 10 point lead for them against you quickly. You have to do it offensively by keeping the game at a pace that is comfortable to the Gamecocks. You have to keep the crowd out of it. We have a big selling job to do and make sure our players understand that.
"Mentally they got a tremendous uplift by beating Georgia. You try to bring energy and emotion every day and after awhile your team needs something that is tangible other than me coaching them. A win like the other right was the right medicine (vs. Georgia). Practice yesterday there was much more laughter, smiles and fun. These are the dog days of basketball at the end of January and beginning of February. In a couple weeks you start thinking about the tournament. You have to find ways to keep the team up. We have to concern ourselves with one game at a time. One practice at a time.
"Ole Miss and Mississippi State are probably the two surprise teams of the league. We have a big challenge ahead of us and so does our team."
Q: You mentioned other teams records the other night after the win. You have to be thinking about your record. Aren't you?
Odom: "That is true. I was just pointing it out when it's good for us. I think the two losses didn't help, but we won one and it got us back closer to where we need to be. When you win a game it puts you in contact with not just one team, but two teams and then you take merit from that."
Odom: It's not an effort thing, it's a confidence thing. You start off the season and everything is really basic, but the more you get into the season the more situations, techniques, traps, offenses and they become more of a factor. Mike had some adjustment problems at that point. He has lost some offensive confidence since the middle of December. Scoring had always been easy for him and he was always able to have his way. He is now playing people who are bigger and stronger and more talented and older. He is maybe trying to do too much. We are working with him to relax his hands. I've tried to cut down the moves we are working on. He has a great turn around jumper, but he is always working to get closer to the basket. Closer to the basket is not always better and he needs to stay out of traffic.
"It's pretty much the same thing with Chad Gray. We have been comfortable with Evka because he was able to pull Steven Hill and Price the other night away from the basket. He doesn't shoot the ball as well as Evka. I would like to use Chad on defense, but he just hasn't had as much work with the first team. This time of year you cut down the number of minutes in practice and not add them. It is not necessary this year. It's hard then to get Chad and Mike more time right now. If you need strength and bulk you would go with Mike. If you need quick, you go with Chad."
Q: Devan scored just nine points the other night and said that he would take nine points a night the rest of the year if we won each game. Comments?
Odom: "Everybody was kind of relieved the other night that we can win when the leading scorer doesn't get a lot of points, but Devan got assists, kept his turnovers down, moved the ball around. Devan wants to win. He is a win at all costs guy. Occasionally he tries to over-do things. Zam had a good night. Evka made enough shots to keep the other team interested. Dwayne Day was very good in the second half."
Q: What about Coach Kennedy and Devan matching up because they are familiar with each other from their Cincinnati days. What kinds of emotion do you expect?
Odom: "I know they have continued to have a really good relationship. I know they talk on the phone once in awhile. That's ok with me. Andy asked me about him a couple times last summer. He has fond feelings for him. They both will want to win the game tomorrow. I will be surprised if there isn't some extra emotion tomorrow. Devan will have his motor churning, but after 5 minutes, he will relax and that kind of emotion is gone. You have to play on preparation and how you handle things situational. He is a better decision maker because he's two years old. Andy will know what sets him off and what doesn't so it will probably be an advantage for Coach Kennedy."
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