Frank Martin and his staff will feel an extra sting from today's loss. The player that changed the momentum in the game countless times and the player that sealed the win in the end, was a player the Gamecocks felt they had wrapped up just under a year ago.
Texas A&M's Danuel House, the fifth leading scorer in the SEC, bombarded South Carolina today from the outside, netting seven 3-pointers on his way to a career high 25 points.
The sting comes from the fact that Danuel House was almost a Gamecock this season. The former 5-star prospect was transferring from Houston and South Carolina seemed to be the favorite before House decided to sign with A&M at the last minute. Frank Martin said earlier this week that he believed House was theirs. House was asked about that period of time after the game and said he was "real close" to coming to South Carolina.
House had 17 points on five 3-pointers against South Carolina in the first half. The Gamecocks produced one of the worst first half performances I have seen this season in college basketball.
USC's start got off to a poor start when Sindarius Thornwell picked up two fouls in the first 2:11 of the first half. The sophomore wing sat on the bench for the rest of the half. Brian Steele replaced Thornwell and he had possessions of back-to-back drives that ended in back-to-back turnovers. South Carolina trailed early 12-2 after shooting 1-of-10 from the floor but a thunderous dunk on a finish from Michael Carrera sparked a 7-0 USC run to bring the early score to 12-9. A&M then went on a run of their, rolling up nine points to USC's two before Duane Notice cooled the Aggies off with a trey to bring the score to 26-18 with 3:28 left in the half. Texas A&M held their longest lead of the day (13) with 10 seconds left in the half. USC had a chance to reduce it before going into the locker room but turned the ball over as the buzzer sound. The Aggies ended on a 6-0 run and shot 52 percent from the field and 57 percent from three on their way to 34-21 halftime lead.
The Gamecock offense was putrid in the first half and it carried over to the beginning of the second. In the first 25 minutes of the game, South Carolina scored 24 points. Tyrone Johnson, Sindarius Thornwell, Brian Steele, and Duane Notice combined to shoot 4-of-24 from the field during that time period. As dull as that period was, the remaining 15 minutes of ballgame was pretty entertaining.
Michael Carrera got the scoring started when he drew an and-1 and hit the foul shot. The Gamecock defense hadn't been terrible, just exploited by a great player, but it woke up once the ball started to go in the bucket. Several defensive stops led to Gamecock points and A&M's double digit lead was cut to seven with 12:16 to play. That reduction was a part of a 10-4 Gamecock run and USC got within five with nine minutes left after a Duane Notice three. Danuel House burned the Garnet & Black for another three but Sindarius Thornwell came right back with a three of his own to keep the deficit at five with 7:38 left. The lead stayed that way until House dropped another three to put the Aggies up eight with 4:20 to go. House canned another three a few minutes later and the Gamecocks had no shot as they dug themselves too big of a hole and their performance dropped off in the closing minutes.
Texas A&M twice held a 13-point lead and twice South Carolina cut it to five but the Gamecocks never led or even tied the game in the Aggies 62-52 win Saturday afternoon. It was A&M's 19th win of the season, the most overall victories in head coach Billy Kennedy's four seasons in College Station. They have a chance to win 20 games for the first time since 2011 Tuesday night in a battle for second in the SEC at No. 18 Arkansas on ESPN.
Michael Carrera had a season-high 17 points to go along with nine rebounds in a great performance. After today's loss, South Carolina (13-13, 4-10) has unfortunately clinched their 19th losing season of conference play in their 24 years in the SEC.
With only four games left in the regular season, the Gamecocks hit the road for Tuscaloosa where they play Alabama at 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday night.