Less than seven minutes into a game that seemed destined for a rout, ESPN’s Sean Farnham noted, “This might be the best I’ve seen Texas A&M play in a month.”
And perhaps the worst South Carolina’s showed all season.
The Aggies rolled the Gamecocks, 83-60, on Saturday afternoon in College Station, Texas.
USC (13-10, 4-6 SEC) has lost three straight games for the first time since February of last year. A&M, looking more like the bunch that began SEC play as the fifth-ranked team in the country, improved to 15-8 and 4-6.
“(Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy) said to me after the game, ‘Frank, that’s the best game we’ve played all year,’” USC coach Frank Martin told 107.5 The Game. “We had no fight today. For us to be a good basketball team, we gotta be able to score at the rim or get to the foul line.
“We couldn’t score at the rim today, we couldn’t get to the foul line -- and we couldn’t stop them.”
Three days after letting Mississippi State go off for 80-plus points and a shooting percentage higher than 50, the Gamecocks struggled again defensively.
Texas A&M, known more for its defense than offense, scored 49 first half points on 60 percent shooting. It took a 22-point lead into the break. It shot 52.7 percent for the game. The 83 points are the most against USC this season.
“We didn’t play through our team’s personality today, I didn’t think we were very engaged,” Martin said. “We had no disposition. We worked on our defense for two days. I don’t know, I thought the last two practices were good. They were competitive, they were hard.
“You can do all that, but your spirit’s got to be good. I think some of our guys -- our youth, who some of our guys are as people -- losing those last two games at home (to MSU and Texas Tech) the way we lost, it kind of hurt our spirit. Regardless of how we practiced the last couple days, we came in here wounded. And A&M smelled that and just went at us and we couldn’t answer.”
Carolina, which welcomed back Justin Minaya (sprained ankle) and Kory Holden (strained hamstring) from injury, couldn’t counter against the SEC’s second-ranked defense. The Gamecocks missed 13 of their first 14 shots en route to a 22-5 deficit at the 11:39 mark of the opening period. They shot 27.5 percent for the game. They were outscored 17-4 in fast break points and 40-18 in the paint.
With a couple contributors back in the fold, Martin stuck with the Wes Myers-Evan Hinson-Frank Booker-Chris Silva-Maik Kotsar starting lineup he used Wednesday. That group produced seven first half points.
Minaya came off the bench to total 16 points. Silva finished with 12 on 3 of 16 shooting. The Aggies blocked 11 of USC’s 69 field goal attempts, including five from the 6-foot-9 Robert Williams.
“He was the one guy on our team that played with unbelievable courage and desire from the second he jumped in until the game ended,” Martin said of Minaya.
Williams, voted SEC co-player of the year in the preseason, scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds for A&M. The Aggies also got 15 points from Admon Gilder.
Holden, playing his first game since Dec. 19, didn’t score in nine minutes.
South Carolina next travels to Arkansas on Tuesday. It hasn’t dropped four in a row since January 2015.