No. 3 A&M beats No. 5 South Carolina 65-57 for SEC title
AP Sports Writer
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Aaliyah Wilson scored 17 points and N’dea Jones added 16 to lead No. 3 Texas A&M to a 65-57 win over fifth-ranked South Carolina on Sunday to give the Aggies their first regular-season Southeastern Conference title.
It’s the 10th straight victory for the Aggies and their ninth win over a ranked opponent this season, which leads the nation. Texas A&M (22-1, 13-1 SEC) finished the season 13-0 at home.
The Gamecocks trailed by as many as 14 in the fourth quarter but cut the lead to 3 on a 3-pointer by Aliyah Boston with about three minutes to go.
Wilson pushed Texas A&M’s lead to 62-57 on a basket with less than 90 seconds remaining and Kayla Wells added two free throws with 12 seconds left to secure the victory.
The Aggies outscored South Carolina (19-4, 14-2) 19-8 in the third quarter to take a commanding lead before the Gamecocks get back in it late.
Destanni Henderson and Zia Cooke had 15 points each for the Gamecocks, who won both the SEC regular-season and conference tournament titles last season.
Texas A&M led by 14 early in the fourth before South Carolina used a 9-0 run, with the first seven points from Cooke, to get within 56-51 with about 5 1/2 minutes remaining.
The Aggies added one free throw before Henderson’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 57-54 with five minutes to go.
Texas A&M was up by 1 at halftime and scored the first 10 points of the second half to make it 45-34 with about four minutes left in the third. Jordan Nixon started that run with a jump shot and capped it with a 3-pointer.
The Gamecocks couldn’t do anything right in that stretch, missing seven shots and committing four turnovers. They got their first point of a period when Cooke made one of two free throws with about three minutes left in the quarter.
The Aggies added a basket after that before South Carolina got its first field goal of the second half on a layup by Lele Grissett a few seconds later.
A 5-0 run by Texas A&M, with another 3 by Nixon, came next to make it 52-37 and spur South Carolina coach Dawn Staley to call a timeout.
The Gamecocks finished the quarter with a 5-2 spurt to cut the lead to 52-42 entering the fourth.
Jones had 14 rebounds to pass Anriel Howard (1,002) for most career rebounds in school history with 1,010.
Trailing by 12 entering the fourth quarter, the Gamecock defense turned the game around with a 12-2 run that cut the Aggies’ lead to three and left the SEC Championship in the balance until the final minute.
In an evenly matched game, neither team went to the free throw line as much as they are accustomed to, combining for just 26 free throw attempts for the game.
- Sophomore Aliyah Boston finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for her 12th double-double of the season and 25th of her career, moving her into a tie for 10th place in program history.
- Junior Destanni Henderson scored eight of her 15 points in the second quarter and finished with a game-high six assists.
- Sophomore Zia Cooke dropped seven of her 15 points in the fourth as Carolina attempted to rally from the 12-point deficit the Gamecocks started the fourth quarter with.
The No. 5/6 Gamecocks (19-4, 14-2 SEC) head to Greenville for the SEC Tournament as the No. 2 seed. Carolina tips off at 6 p.m. on Friday on the SEC Network against an opponent to be determined on Thursday.