COLUMBIA -- For a team that counts so much on energy -- or "mentality" as its first-year coach constantly preaches -- this trip will be fascinating to watch.
First, go back to last year. When the players on the USC men's basketball team reflect, they point out that while they lost a lot of games, they only truly felt blown out of two. Both were against Tennessee, including a face-shielding 33 point-loss in Knoxville.
Now this year: The Gamecocks are off to a better start, but just experienced their first unfocused, noncompetitive loss of the season, Wednesday at LSU. Tonight USC has to see how it responds by visiting -- yes, that's right -- Tennessee.
"We're going to want to redeem ourselves. We know it's not the same team," USC guard Zam Fredrick said, meaning that Tennessee has lost some players and a bit of national luster.
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Darrin Horn was busy coaching Western Kentucky when his current players were getting routed twice by Tennessee. So his main concern is fixing what happened at LSU, when the Gamecocks fell down early and eventually lost by 17.
"It all starts and ends with mentality, especially with the way we want to play, and we did not do that on Wednesday," Horn said.
Fredrick said it seemed like players were "hoping stuff would happen," as it happened sometimes during the team's previous 12 victories this season. To Fredrick, it was like everyone was figuring the next person would pick things up rather than bonding together.
"Just give ourselves a chance to win," Fredrick said. "The LSU game, we didn't give ourselves a chance."