House’s 7 3s lead Texas A&M to 62-52 victory
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy doesn’t talk much about the direction his team is heading. The Aggies’ play speaks for itself.
Danuel House tied his career high with 25 points off seven 3-pointers to lead Texas A&M a step closer to the NCAA tournament with a 62-52 victory at South Carolina on Saturday.
The victory by the Aggies (19-7, 10-4 Southeastern Conference) gave Kennedy his most wins in his four seasons and gave them double-digit SEC wins for the first time since joining the league three seasons ago.
Up next is the team’s first 20-win season since 2010-11, also the last time the Aggies played in the NCAAs.
”We’ve got an older group and they know what they’re playing for,” Kennedy said.
At South Carolina, it was the chance to stay on the right side of the NCAA bubble. House played a big part with his outside shooting as he matched his best-ever output from last month in the Aggies’ 70-64, double-overtime loss to Kentucky.
Since then, Texas A&M has only lost twice in 12 games and is solidly in the SEC’s top four.
”They understand what’s at stake and have done a tremendous job of staying in moment,” Kennedy said.
South Carolina (13-13, 4-10) cut Texas A&M’s 13-point lead to five twice in the second half, but could get no closer.
Michael Carrera led the Gamecocks with 17 points.
Jalen Jones added 12 points for the Aggies.
House had 17 of his points in the first half. He struggled to find his shot after the break, but came up big at the right times.
The Gamecocks whittled the lead down to 41-36 on Duane Notice’s jumper with 9:21 left. Then House drilled a 3 from the right corner. South Carolina was again within five points, 47-42, on Sindarius Thornwell’s 3 with 5:26 left. And again House answered with a long-distance shot to restore the lead.
”I wouldn’t call it clutch,” House said. ”My teammates and I work hard to get shots up.”
The Gamecocks had come off a win at Georgia last Tuesday night and had hoped to win consecutive games since its seven-game victory streak ended with the start of SEC play. Instead, they shot just 29 percent (16 of 59) from the field.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin thought his team found its fight in the second half, yet didn’t make timely shots.
”I’m battling guys to shoot the basketball,” he said. ”That’s a new one for me.”
It was House and the Aggies who struck fast and often from long range.
House, the Houston transfer, hit two 3-pointers and scored eight points as Texas A&M opened a 12-2 lead less than seven minutes in.
After the Gamecocks cut things to 14-11, the Aggies were at it again with House, Alex Caruso and Peyton Allen each making long-distance baskets.
House added two more 3s in the last 90 seconds to send Texas A&M up 34-21 at the break.
Texas A&M starts five upperclassmen – three juniors and two seniors – and relies on them heavily. The starters all played for at least 30 minutes or more against South Carolina. Point guard Alex Caruso is the Aggies’ ironman, going 31 minutes or more in 17 straight games and 19 of the last 20.
South Carolina played just eight guys because of injury and suspension. Reserve guard Marcus Stroman missed his fourth game because of a throat infection. Demetrius Henry and Shamiek Sheppard missed their second games because of a team suspension. Martin said that makes it difficult to practice because they have to use team managers to go five-on-five.
Texas A&M: The Aggies are 5-2 on the road this season in SEC play, surpassing the four road wins total their first two years in the league.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks honored past basketball players as part of its Legends Weekend. On hand were NBA great Alex English and long time NBA player, coach and executive Mike Dunleavy, both who starred for the late coach Frank McGuire at South Carolina in the 1970s.
Texas A&M: At No. 18 Arkansas on Tuesday.
South Carolina: At Alabama on Tuesday.