COLUMBIA -- South Carolina philosphy majors needn't worry about finding a senior thesis topic.
All they have to do is walk over to the Colonial Center.
The Gamecocks' last two games are a perfect representation of the glass-is-half-empty, glass-is-half-full approach to life. Optimistically, USC has completed second-half comebacks in each of its last two games for two big wins.
Pessimistically, the Gamecocks have had to do it against College of Charleston and UC-Irvine, not exactly teams who are shattering the Top 25.
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And realistically, USC's glass may be half-full, but it's listing to one side and dribbling a few bits of water to the floor after Dec. 29.
Coach Dave Odom announced Dec. 31 that Brandis Raley-Ross, the Gamecocks' third guard and the nation's leader in 3-point percentage, sprained his left knee during a shootaround Dec. 29 and is out for at least two weeks. According to a statement from the school, Raley-Ross and substitute guard Evka Baniulis were shooting around on a day off and Raley-Ross tried to dunk, coming down awkwardly.
There's no ligament damage and Raley-Ross should be able to return with no ill effects. But losing a guy who can make big shots -- Raley-Ross left the UC-Irvine game with 30 of his 46 3-point attempts finding the mark -- is a serious drawback.
Losing an offensive contributor can be handled -- it just means Baniulis, Mike Holmes, Sam Muldrow and Dwayne Day will have to improve their games to help out the constant scoring from Devan Downey and Zam Fredrick. Defensively, the Gamecocks can't afford to lose anybody right now.
"I went into the Christmas break saying, 'What in the heck has happened to our defense?,'" Odom said before the UC-Irvine game.
Odom mentioned the team's supposed best defender, Dominique Archie, needed to step up. Archie was the team's leading scorer against Irvine with 18 points and also led the team with seven rebounds.
He needs to do it again tonight against Radford to remain in Odom's good graces, as well as showing USC can handle the loss of Raley-Ross since the first two opponents on the SEC slate, No. 15 Vanderbilt and No. 8 Tennessee, are waiting next week.
"As a player, you got to be ready for anything," Archie said. "There's been a big emphasis on defense."
The Gamecocks feel great that for the past two games, they've gotten the big shots and the rallies that have always seemed to elude them. But remembering they played badly enough to get in a large hole each time has taken a lot of the joy out of it.
Still, they've been wins. Odom can get the 400th win of his career tonight but he's thinking of just how to get another win for his ballclub -- he knows he can't depend on late comebacks forever.
"We've got to make one team correction at a time," Odom said. "I think offensively, we're doing pretty well. I don't think offense is the problem. I do think defense is the problem."