COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -South Carolina and Clemson were set to meet on the basketball court Saturday, 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) hopes to avenge not just that loss, but three straight 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.''
Senior Clemson guard Cliff Hammonds agreed.
``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 last 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 - 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 Saturday.''
Purnell said his team will need to reproduce Wednesday'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.
South Carolina leads the series 86-71, but Clemson has the edge at home, 43-30.

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