South Carolina men’s basketball (15-15, 10-7 SEC) used a strong second half to defeat the Texas A&M Aggies (13-16, 6-11 SEC) on the road on Tuesday night.
The Gamecocks snapped a three-game losing streak and a four-game SEC road losing streak. This was their second consecutive game without guard A.J. Lawson, who suffered an ankle injury in last week's game against Alabama.
The Gamecocks started the first half on a 13-4 run and increased their lead up to as much as 10 points with 10 minutes left in the half.
Three-point shooting played a major role as South Carolina shot eight-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first half. With tonight’s win, the Gamecocks are now 12-7 on the season when making six or more three-point field goals.
“We’ve been shooting it good here during conference play,” head coach Frank Martin said to the SEC Network. “Unfortunately, in two of our last three games, it just dried up on us. We didn’t make any shots, and last game at Missouri we played with our feelings hurt, and it cost us.”
Texas A&M trimmed the lead to five points just before the end of the half, as the Gamecocks took a 39-34 lead into halftime. Wendell Mitchell and Savion Flagg combined for 17 points in the first half for the Aggies, while Chris Silva led South Carolina with 12 points and seven rebounds.
A Promising Second Half
The second half proved to be the difference in the game as South Carolina increased its lead to double digits in the first few minutes. The lead increased to as many as 18 points later in the half, and the Aggies failed to keep pace with South Carolina’s scoring as the Gamecocks won by a final score of 71-54.
The defense also played a crucial role, holding the Aggies to just 20 points in the second half.
“I figured this is a team that we can line up and play man against,” Martin said. “We were better defensively, which created open court opportunities for us.”
Chris Silva led the Gamecocks with 22 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
“He’s a great kid, great player and very important to us,” Martin said, referring to Silva. “He’s gained confidence in his perimeter shooting…I’m really happy for him that he played that well today.”
Tre Campbell led the team in assists with nine total. Keyshawn Bryant put up 15 points and Hassani Gravett finished with 17 points.
South Carolina clinched a winning season in conference play for only the sixth time in 28 seasons, with three of those seasons occurring in the Frank Martin era. This was also the first time South Carolina swept the Aggies since Texas A&M joined the SEC in the 2012-2013 season as the Gamecocks also earned an 84-77 over the Aggies in Columbia on Feb. 16.
South Carolina will conclude its regular season at home against the Georgia Bulldogs for Senior Day on Saturday, March 9. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. on the SEC Network.
With a win and a Mississippi State loss to Tennessee, South Carolina will clinch a double-bye in the SEC Tournament in Nashville, assuring a spot in the quarterfinals.
Martin stressed the importance of earning a double-bye in the SEC Tournament given his team’s injuries.
“When you are shorthanded like we are, especially at the guard spot…it makes it really difficult to have to play more than maybe two or three games during the week,” Martin said.