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February 28, 2009

Gamecocks defend first place tonight

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (20-6, 9-4 SEC)
at
VANDERBILT COMMODORES (16-11, 5-8)

When: 9 p.m. today
Where: Memorial Gym, Nashville, Tenn.
TV: ESPNU
Tickets: Sold out
Latest line: Vanderbilt by 1.5
South Carolina's probable starters: G Devan Downey 5-9 Jr. (20.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Zam Fredrick 6-0 Sr. (15.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg); F Dominique Archie 6-7 Jr. (11.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg); F Sam Muldrow 6-9 So. (6.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F/C Mike Holmes 6-7 So. (10.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg)
Vanderbilt's probable starters: G Jermaine Beal 6-3 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G Brad Tinsley 6-3 Fr. (10.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G/F Jeffery Taylor 6-7 Fr. (11.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg); C A.J. Ogilvy 6-11 So. (14.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Steve Tchiengang 6-9 Fr. (4.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina is in first place in the SEC East by a game and is hoping to stay there. Other games tonight and Sunday which could affect that are LSU at Kentucky and Tennessee at Florida. ... The Gamecocks won the first matchup 86-76 on Jan. 28. ... USC leads the all-time series 22-21. Prior to the first game this year, Vanderbilt had won five straight. ... The Commodores have gone 4-3 since losing to USC. USC has gone 5-2. ... Taylor has hit double figures in 20 of 27 games. ... USC's Branden Conrad should dress tonight but probably won't play.
Next game: USC hosts Tennessee at 7 p.m. on Thursday.



The voicemail wasn't full and his hard drive didn't crash with congratulatory e-mails.

Despite his team blistering Kentucky by 18 points just three days ago, South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said it was business as usual around the Gamecock basketball offices.

No increased excitement?

"I'm not gauging that," Horn said on Friday. "There were some, for sure, but I don't know it if was more than usual."

Which is probably the way he prefers it.

These are heady days in Columbia, after the Gamecocks (20-6, 9-4 SEC) notched their latest milestone under Horn against the Wildcats. USC leaped into first place in the SEC East by a game with three to play, the first time in 11 years the Gamecocks have been in position this late in the season to factor into conference title discussions.

There's a three-team logjam one game behind the Gamecocks so computing each scenario would give Pythagoras a migraine. But USC knows one thing for sure -- keep winning, and there's no need to worry about the other teams.

Even if there is a sizable target growing on each of the Gamecocks' backs.

"We don't feel pressure because we know if we do what we got to do, we'll win our games," forward Dominique Archie explained.

The first test of that is tonight.

Naturally, as soon as the final horn sounded after the Kentucky win, folks began questioning if USC could effectively shove that emotion to the side and concentrate on the next opponent. It's either better or worse that that's Vanderbilt (16-11, 5-8), which is struggling through a growing-pains season.

Better because USC is familiar with Vandy, having beaten the Commodores 86-76 on Jan. 28. Worse because the game is at Memorial Gym, Vandy's cherished house of horrors, and the 'Dores are coming off a loss to SEC East-worst Georgia.

Horn began talking about the overlooking storyline immediately after the Kentucky game. He doesn't think it'll be a big problem -- since it's a road game, considering USC's problems on the road this year, the Gamecocks should be even more wary.

"We've been really talking about that since we went to Kentucky," Horn said. "Once you start taking care of business at home (USC is 7-0 in the SEC at Colonial Life Arena), the next step is winning on the road. With two of our last three on the road, that's definitely going to come into play."

Vandy likewise beat Kentucky at home and, before the Georgia loss, was beginning to play consistently. Injuries -- notably, to stud center A.J. Ogilvy -- have healed enough to make the Commodores a dangerous team.

Against USC in Columbia, Ogilvy had as many turnovers (three) as points. He yanked 11 rebounds but fouled out -- the Gamecocks never really had to worry about him.

That may not be the case this time. But as Horn pointed out, the Gamecocks didn't get to this point by playing intimidated.

"Everyone on our team is starting play their role really well," he said.



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