No. 1 South Carolina broke open a close game in the third quarter to defeat Texas A&M 65-45 on Thursday.
The Gamecocks (15-1, 3-1 SEC) outscored the Aggies 21-10 in the third. The Aggies (10-5, 0-4) shook up their strategy and worked hard to keep the game close on the road, down 26-24 at the half.
The Gamecocks changed that fast with a 10-2 run to start the second half, keyed by a pair of 3-pointers by guard Destanni Henderson, who finished with 15 points.
South Carolina went into the fourth up 47-34 lead. The Gamecocks were never threatened after that. At one point, South Carolina went on a 14-0 fourth-quarter run and eventually outscored the Aggies 39-21 in the second half.
The Aggies were shorthanded. They were without a starter Destiny Pitts and reserve Sahara Jones due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
The Aggies hadn't started 0-3 in SEC play since Gary Blair’s first season at Texas A&M in 2003-04. Blair got creative to start the game, installing a matchup zone on defense and having his players work the clock on offense in order to reduce South Carolina’s offensive possessions.
It worked in the first half, even though the Gamecocks started the game on a tear. South Carolina built as much as a 12-point lead, up 16-4 in the first quarter.
The Aggies chipped away from there, getting within a basket on several occasions before going into halftime down just two points.
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South Carolina’s National Player of the Year candidate, forward Aliyah Boston, had a double-double by halftime and finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds. She has a streak of 10 straight double-doubles.
Henderson finished with 15 points, while Victaria Saxton and Zia Cooke scored 10 each.
The Aggies continued to struggle from the floor, shooting 29.3 percent. Without Pitts, who averages 11.4 points, the Aggies tried to lean on Qadashah Hoppie, Kayla Wells and Jordan Nixon offensively. But they couldn’t produce enough.
Hoppie finished with 15 points, while Wells had 11 and Nixon scored seven. Jada Malone came off the bench to give the Aggies nine rebounds, as they needed a lift inside with Aaliyah Patty playing just five minutes.
Texas A&M will host Auburn on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Reed Arena.
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You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.