Originally created 01/24/04

Gamecocks don't let ranking go to head



When South Carolina coach Dave Odom told his players this week that the Gamecocks had been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, there was barely a murmur in the crowd.

A couple of the older players shrugged, some of the younger guys had their heads buried in textbooks.

It likely was the reaction Odom wanted.

"When a team like ours gets ranked for the first time in a long, long while, it takes you a while to get your feet back on the ground," said Odom, whose team's No. 25 ranking is the first time it's been in the poll since the season-ending vote of 1998. "I've seen nothing on the court that would make me believe that they've been elevated to a position that's unrealistic. If I detect anything to the contrary, I'll deal with it."

And if he doesn't, Louisiana State - which visits a sold-out Colonial Center at 7:30 tonight - probably will.

Although the Tigers (12-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) are on a two-game losing streak, they boast 6-foot-9 senior forward Jaime Lloreda, who leads the team with 17.4 points and leads the conference with 11.4 rebounds per game.

But LSU is reeling after an excruciating 53-49 road loss to Mississippi last Wednesday.

"You'd think that when you go into an opponent's home floor and hold them to 36 percent shooting and out-rebound them by seven or eight, you'd think you'd win the game," Tigers coach John Brady said. "But such is not the case when our team is as inept as it was, offensively. We had every opportunity to win that game."

Those opportunities might not present themselves tonight.

After losing their SEC opener to Florida, the Gamecocks (16-2, 3-1) reeled off 21-point victories against Georgia and Tennessee and a road overtime win vs. Auburn to take sole possession of first place in Eastern Division.

Confidence for South Carolina is high. But not too high.

Otherwise Dave the disciplinarian will deal with it.

"Right now our team feels good about itself," Odom said. "But they realize we're only as good as our last game. No better."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.