On Feb. 10 South Carolina junior guard Mike Boynton Jr. was
bitten on his right calf by an insect in his bedroom, causing an
abscess to develop that was so painful that he almost had to miss
the Gamecocks' game the following night against No. 6 Mississippi
State. Boynton gutted his way through the game, dishing out six
assists in 39 minutes in a 79-75 overtime loss, and afterward
team doctors removed the abscess in the training room. Boynton
had to skip practice the next day, but he still made a
career-high five three-pointers in the Gamecocks' 82-75 win over
Vanderbilt last Saturday.
That kind of effort has been typical on a team that had a
surprising 20-5 record (7-4 in the SEC) through Sunday. "They've
answered the bell every night," says coach Dave Odom. "We haven't
always played our best, but we've always given our best."
South Carolina is particularly tough on defense, where Odom has
deployed a full-court, trapping press to compensate for the
team's lack of size. At week's end the Gamecocks led the SEC in
field goal percentage defense (37.3), three-point percentage
defense (26.7) and blocks (6.1 per game).
Though South Carolina's RPI is 38th because of a weak
nonconference schedule, the Gamecocks are alone in second place
in the SEC's Eastern Division. That puts them in an excellent
position to earn their first NCAA tournament bid since 1998.