COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Jamal Jones scored 22 points as Texas A&M overcame a double-digit first half deficit to defeat South Carolina 75-67 on Wednesday night.
The Aggies (12-4, 3-0 SEC), under coach Billy Kennedy, are 3-0 in league play for the first time since 2010-11 under Mark Turgeon, now at Maryland, and as members of the Big 12 at the time.
Texas A&M snagged its first lead of the second half at 58-57 on two free throws by Jones with 6:59 remaining. Following a missed 3-pointer by Jaylen Shaw on South Carolina’s ensuing possession, A&M guard Shawn Smith responded with a 3-pointer from deep in the right corner in lifting the Aggies to a 61-57 lead.
”My number was called, and I just wanted to go out there and help my teammates out as much as possible,” said Smith, who chipped in 14 points. “Alex Caruso found me wide open in the corner and I knocked it down. I was excited.”
A&M guard Jordan Green scored four points in the final 1:34 to help put away the Gamecocks.
”This was a great team win,” Kennedy said. “We’re not deep enough or experienced enough to not have everybody locked in and involved.”
Brenton Williams scored 14 points for the Gamecocks (7-9, 0-3), who shot 42.9 percent (9 of 21) from the field in the second half - after making 14 of 28 in the first half - en route to their third consecutive setback to start conference play.
”They out-disciplined us and out-toughed us,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said of the Aggies. “The discipline part is on me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys prepared to finish off a game. The out-toughed part - that’s a man-check. You’ve got to look in the mirror.”
South Carolina suffered an even bigger loss, too, as guard Tyrone Johnson, the team’s leading scorer at 11.9 points per game, left the contest late in the first half with what Martin said was a broken foot. Johnson had inadvertently stepped on an official’s foot in incurring the injury.
The Aggies shot 43.8 percent (7 of 16) from the 3-point line, while the Gamecocks hobbled themselves with 17 turnovers (compared to 11 for A&M).
”We were embarrassingly bad on defense,” Martin said.
South Carolina manhandled A&M in rebounds over the first 20 minutes to the tune of 20-10, in building the early 11-point lead. The Aggies responded by out-rebounding South Carolina 15-13 the rest of the way, although the Gamecocks still led in the final tally (33-25).
A&M improved to 2-0 all-time against the Gamecocks, as the programs didn’t meet until the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012. The Aggies are trying to make the NCAA tournament for the first time under Kennedy.
”I can’t tell you how happy I am for how well his team is playing right now,” said Martin, a close friend of Kennedy.
The Aggies take their undefeated conference mark on the road to Mississippi State on Saturday, while the Gamecocks, still in search of their first SEC victory, return home to play host to Mississippi on Saturday.