COLUMBIA - A once-commanding lead had shrunk to single digits, so Dave Odom called a timeout and singled out one of his players.
"We had one crazy Lithuanian running out there playing his game, speaking garble that no one else could understand out there," Odom said Monday after his team beat Providence 67-48 before 6,475.
The target of Odom's ire was Marius Petravicius, a 6-foot-10, 250-pound junior who was struggling to figure out the Friars' zone defense. "I think I garbled some things at him that he did understand," Odom said.
Petravicius wasn't the only player who heard Odom's message, which echoed off thousands of empty seats at Frank McGuire Arena. The Gamecocks (5-2) responded to the 30-second tongue-lashing with a 20-4 run that put the game away.
"He was talking to Marius, but he was talking to the whole team through him," said junior swingman Chuck Eidson, whose team forced 24 turnovers and committed just seven against the defensive-minded Friars. "We understood what he was saying, and that definitely motivated us."
Jamel Bradley, who scored a game-high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting, began the run with one of his four 3-pointers. Petravicius helped with four points during the spurt, including a dunk off a nice feed from Eidson that gave the Gamecocks a 63-37 lead with 4:54 left.
Odom said his defense was "extraordinary, particularly given the number of games, number of practices we have played in such a short period of time."
The game's most interesting moment came later, with the outcome decided. Derek Watson, a star for the Gamecocks' football team who joined the team a day earlier, slipped out of his warmups and jogged to the scorer's table with 1:45 left.
Odom hadn't planned to play the junior, but a comfortable lead and some prodding by the fans changed his mind. Watson struggled in his point guard role, tossing up a layup that glanced off the backboard and didn't touch the rim, but he hit one of two free throws with 30 seconds left to elicit one of the loudest cheers of the night.
"You saw a great athlete whose skills are rusty," Odom said. "I thought he looked at me a couple of times and said, 'When is the defense coming in? I'm tired."'
NOTE: South Aiken's Tony Kitchings sat out the game with a second-degree concussion suffered in Saturday's win over Colorado State. The redshirt junior will be re-evaluated at practice Wednesday, a day before the Gamecocks play host to Georgetown at 7 p.m.
Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or email@example.com.