Led by another rousing 20-plus point effort by Jamal Jones, the Texas A&M basketball team improved to a 3-0 record in SEC play after edging out the South Carolina Gamecocks in a 75-67 victory Wednesday at Reed Arena.
The Aggies would rally to overcome a lackluster start after trailing 14-3 following the first six minutes of regulation. A mid-half surge would even out the game's momentum as the Aggies whittled the Gamecocks' lead to one point by the half.
Despite being outrebounded 33-25, Texas A&M found its spark – scoring field goals at a 62.5 percent clip in the second half – to overcome an inexperienced South Carolina team down the stretch. Balanced scoring, including double-digit point tallies by Shawn Smith (14) and Antwan Space (13) in addition to Jones' 22, would allow head coach Billy Kennedy's squad to persevere.
Kennedy noted the improved play from his bench, a change created through a shift in its collective mindset.
"Our bench was really good for us tonight," Kennedy said. "Davonte Fitzgerald and Shawn Smith had some great minutes, as did Antwan Space. All three of those guys gave us quality minutes. They're growing up, they're getting comfortable and their attitude is better. That's why they're playing better."
This is the second straight game in which the Aggies would pull through to win in a close contest. Though the match wouldn't end similarly to the buzzer-beating thriller Saturday in Knoxville, clutch plays were needed to remain unscathed in conference play.
Jones, who notched his second consecutive game scoring more than 20 points, said the emotional win at Tennessee spurred on the team's rising momentum.
"After that Tennessee win, that's when we started coming along and started getting our confidence back," Jones said. "A couple days ago we felt like we could beat anybody. If everybody shows up on a night like this, it's pretty special."
Texas A&M trailed for 13 minutes in the second half, but two free throws and a Space three-pointer lifted the Aggies to a lead that took the wind from the Gamecocks' sails. The significant three-point shot would add to a prolific night beyond the arc with the Aggies connecting at a 43.8 percent rate from the perimeter.
Space, who hit the winning shot against Tennessee after trailing the entirety of the second half, said the team's closeness allowed them to overcome the game's adversity.
"We're a pretty close group. When we went in the locker room, everybody could say anything to anybody," Space said. "We told each other what we need to do, what we need to fix about it and change it. It worked."
Aggies Remain Undefeated in SEC Play
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