Gamecocks seek revenge on court

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina and Clemson meet on the basketball court today, just a week after the rivals faced off in football.


For the Tigers (7-0), it will be another chance for victory after a 23-21 gridiron win while South Carolina (5-3) will try to avenge not just that loss, but three consecutive defeats on the court.

"Obviously, our basketball team has not had a lot of success against them in the last three years," Gamecocks coach Dave Odom said.

"That's under my skin. ... Really when you look at it, I don't think anybody on our team has beaten Clemson. So, you know, it's a big game."

Clemson's senior guard Cliff Hammonds agrees.

"I think everybody comes into these games mentally focused and ready to play," said Hammonds, the team's third-leading scorer this year with 12 points per game. "It's a rivalry game, so you have to come with an edge.

"You don't want them to have bragging rights for a whole year."

The Tigers have been able to boast recently -- they won by one point in overtime in 2004, then had two easy wins.

Odom has made it clear this one is important -- the Gamecocks have dropped three of their past five games.

"I want our team to play well ... and look like they know what they're doing," Odom said of his young squad. "But I want them to win. That is the key."

Sophomore forward Brandis Raley-Ross is also feeling pressure from his classmates, who told him: "Don't do what the football team has done."

South Carolina lost the football game on a last-second field goal.

For the basketball team, too, the close games have gone to the other team -- starting with a 2-point loss to North Carolina State and a 1-point loss to George Mason at the Old Spice Classic in Florida last week.

"We want to show people we can win the close games," Raley-Ross said.

Clemson coach Oliver Purnell said he sees an improved guard play from the Gamecocks, including Devan Downey and Zam Fredrick.

"Any time you have a better backcourt, you have a better team most of the time," Purnell said.

"Certainly they are going through some growing pains as they develop their team, but I've seen them play awfully well during stretches this season.

"I think they're going to be a great basketball team. I hope they aren't (today)."

Purnell said his team will need to reproduce Tuesday's effort, when K.C. Rivers scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead the Tigers to a 61-58 come-from-behind win against Purdue.

They'll have to do it again without their second-leading scorer James Mays, who is averaging 15.5 points and 7.3 rebounds. Mays is expected to be out with a hip sprain until at least Dec. 20.