South Carolina’s 84-77 win over Texas A&M on Saturday kept the Gamecocks in a tie with Ole Miss for fourth place in the SEC standings, setting up a crucial matchup with the Rebels on Tuesday at Colonial Life Arena.
USC (13-12, 8-4 SEC) already has more league victories than last season. It’s two away from getting to double-digits for only the sixth time in program history.
Here’s what we learned from the rally past the Aggies:
Chris Silva is playing at an SEC POY level
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Five hours after USC-A&M ended, Kentucky and Tennessee played for league supremacy in Lexington. The battle within the battle featured the Wildcats’ P.J. Washington and Volunteers’ Grant Williams, a couple leading candidates for SEC Player of the Year.
Washington scored 20 or more points for the seventh time in eight games as the UK whipped UT, 86-69. Williams finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
In conferences games only, Washington is averaging 16.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and shooting 54.1 percent from the field. Against the same competition, Williams is averaging 18.5 points, 6.9 boards, 1.3 blocks and shooting 56.9 percent.
Chris Silva had a second straight double-double Saturday. His averages in SEC play? 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.3 blocks while shooting 60.2 percent. Over the last three games, Silva has truly played at an SEC POY level, totaling 55 points, 37 rebounds eight blocks — and only nine fouls.
“Chris Silva is playing like a hoss,” said USC coach Frank Martin after the senior big man dropped 22 and 14 on A&M.
An inside presence is helping the outside shooting
South Carolina is 74 3-pointers away from breaking the school record for 3s in a season. With seven guaranteed games left, that means the Gamecocks need to average a little over 10 treys to make history.
In other words, they’re going to do it. Take it to the bank. You see how this team is shooting right now, right?
Four different players had multiple 3s Saturday. The only who didn’t still deserves credit.
“I didn’t think we challenged enough (of USC’s shots), obviously,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said of Carolina’s school record-tying 16 3s on 31 attempts, “but when you got Silva and we’re playing small, we had to help in the post. He’s such a factor. ... When you got to help on him so much, it leaves guys open, unfortunately, and they took advantage of it.”
The Gamecocks have hit 10 or more 3s in four of their last five games. In 2014-15, Martin’s third season, USC failed to ever make 10 3s in a game.
Ole Miss (18-7, 8-4) enters Tuesday with the SEC’s worst 3-point defense.
A freshman needs to ‘grow up’
This wasn’t Keyshawn Bryant’s best week.
After Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield bullied him Wednesday in Knoxville, the freshman failed to score in 15 minutes against Texas A&M.
Martin afterward didn’t hide his frustrations with Bryant. He noted that these consecutive underwhelming performances have come since Evan Hinson left the team, leaving Martin with few replacement options.
“We all have bad days,” Martin said. “He had a bad day at Tennessee. Having two bad days in a row is unacceptable. I’m not going to give you the details of my conversations with him in the locker room, but I’m disappointed in him because he’s been better than that all year.
“The reason we’re in a place where this season still has so much in front of us to gain is because of his efforts. I’m not very good with dancing around stuff, he needs to grow up. That’s what he needs to do. He wasn’t playing like that when I had 10 bodies I could put in the game. Now he’s taking playing time for granted and he’s kind of changed gears on me.
“He needs to grow up and his teammates need to help him.”
Hassani Gravett has a new look, same game
No more mocking blooming onion chants?
Hassani Gravett, once a target of opposing student sections for his light-red, floppy hair, debuted a new look Saturday.
With a more traditional cut, the senior guard continued the best season of his career, pouring in 18 points and four assists.
“My rule is be neat,” Martin said. “That thing had gotten really, really ugly. Really ugly. Thank God.”
Who: Ole Miss at South Carolina
When: 7 p.m. Feb 19
Where: Colonial Life Arena
TV: SEC Network