CLEMSON - South Carolina may have a new basketball coach, but the face on the other side of the scorer's table will be very familiar to Clemson's Larry Shyatt.
Dave Odom, the former Wake Forest coach whom Shyatt faced twice a year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, now prowls the area in front of the Gamecocks' bench, having replaced Eddie Fogler in the offseason.
Odom has brought with him some impressive credentials, having literally taken apart and rebuilt the Wake Forest program and turning it into a Top 25 team again. Given the pieces he has at his disposal at USC - including a healthy Chuck Eidson - fans in Columbia are expecting similar results.
But new coaches don't always mean a total revamping of a new team.
"I caught the second half of their game against Providence (a 67-48 USC victory) and I probably shouldn't have," Shyatt said. "They looked awfully good and gave me an awful lot to worry about. They're very similar offensively to a year ago...Eddie (Fogler) had them in line to be an NCAA tournament team, and then Eidson got hurt."
Eidson's knee injury seemed to take the wind out of South Carolina's sails, and their mediocre play down the stretch - combined with the constant tension between Fogler and USC athletic director Mike McGee - was enough to hasten Fogler's departure.
But Eidson is back and averaging almost nine points per game, and so are other pieces of the USC puzzle. Jamel Bradley and Aaron Lucas are South Carolina's leading scorers at 15.1 and 11.1 points per game, respectively. And center Tony Kitchings, who burned Clemson's interior for 23 points in last year's 76-64 USC win, is coming off a 12-point, seven rebound performance in Thursday's two-point loss to No. 15 Georgetown.
However, through eight games this season Clemson's interior defense has been remarkably better than 2000-2001. A slimmed-down Ray Henderson and a confident, in shape Chris Hobbs have helped the Tigers outrebound every opponent this season, including No. 1 Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, by an average of 11.6 boards per game.
Together, they're averaging a combined 25.5 points and 15.2 rebounds in 47 minutes of action. "The Bruise Brothers," as Shyatt calls Henderson and Hobbs, have become a force in the paint and give Clemson something it lacked there a year ago:
"They've been really good," Shyatt said. "When Chris stays out of foul trouble, they are a pretty impressive duo. They're doing exactly what we want them to do in there."
- Some reserve seats are still available for Saturday night. The game will tipoff at 8 p.m. The $15 tickets will be available at all gates prior to the game.