South Carolina defeats Texas A&M in SEC home opener

Courtesy: South Carolina Athletics

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina (12-3, 2-0 SEC) posted a double-digit win in its SEC home opener Saturday afternoon, after defeating a tough Texas A&M (8-6, 0-3 SEC) team 79-68. Senior guard Duane Notice and freshman guard Rakym Felder each scored 19 points to lead Carolina. The duo combined for seven of the team’s nine 3s in the game.

Carolina trailed A&M 9-7 at the first media timeout with 15:54 left in the opening half. The Gamecocks struggled to shoot the ball early after going 3-of-13 (23 percent) in the game’s first five minutes. Senior Sindarius Thornwell had five of the team’s first seven points.

The shooting woes (3-for-19) continued for the Gamecocks up until the next media timeout with 11:45 left as the Aggies pushed their lead to 13-9. Carolina kept the game tight on the defensive end, forcing five early turnovers.

The lead was cut to 20-17 after a couple of 3-balls from freshman Rakym Felder with 10:06 on the clock. Another 3-pointer tied the game with 8:55 left, as the Gamecocks swung the ball around the perimeter to Notice who was wide open on the outside.

A&M extended the lead back to the three at the next media timeout with 5:09 left. The Aggies shot the ball well in the early goings, as they were 13-for-20 (65 percent) from the floor. Sophomore Chris Silva led the Gamecocks to that point with seven points.

The Aggies pushed the lead to seven, 33-26, after a made 3 by DJ Hogg with 4:37 to go before the break, but a Notice 3 cut the deficit to 33-31 with 2:15 on the clock. Felder followed with a steal and transition layup at the opposite end and a made free throw after being fouled, which capped an 8-0 run as Carolina regained the lead for the first time since the beginning of the game.

The Gamecocks led by one, 36-35, after a pair of Notice free throws with four seconds left. Hogg was able to get off a deep 3 as time expired. The shot banked in as A&M took a 38-36 lead at the break. Notice led Carolina at halftime with 10. Silva and Felder each had nine. Hogg led all scorers at the break with 14. Carolina’s defense forced a season-high 15 turnovers in the first half, leading to 16 points.

The Gamecocks opened the second half on a 7-0 run jumping out to a 43-38 lead. They led 45-40 at the first media timeout with 15:31 to go. A pair of 3s by Notice and Felder then forced Aggie head coach Billy Kennedy to take a timeout with 14:07 on the clock, as Carolina led by its biggest margin of the game, 51-43.

Texas A&M then went on a run of its own, as a Hogg jumper trimmed the lead to just two, 56-54, with 10:23 left. The score remained 56-54 until the next media timeout with 7:54 to go in the game. The Aggies then retook the lead 59-58 with seven minutes left after a made 3 from the right wing by Tonny Trocha-Morelos.

The Gamecocks quickly regained the lead 65-59 after a 7-0 run with 5:46 left. A putback by Thornwell extended the margin to 69-61 with 4:21 to go. With 3:02 left, Thronwell then threw a no-look dart to the right corner where a wide-open PJ Dozier was spotting up. Dozier knocked down the 3 to put Carolina ahead by 11, 72-61, its biggest lead of the game. Hogg answered on the ensuing possession with a 3 and Carolina led by eight, 72-64, at the final media timeout.

The Gamecocks led by nine or more the rest of the way. Thornwell put the game on ice with a pair of free throws with 34 seconds left as Carolina improved to 2-0 in SEC play. Thornwell (16) and Silva (15) joined Notice and Felder in double-figures for the Gamecocks.

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