COLLEGE STATION (AP) – Texas A&M prides itself on defense.
So when the Aggies were shutting down South Carolina’s offense at the beginning of the second half, but also struggling to score themselves, they weren’t worried.
They knew if they kept playing good defense, they’d be just fine.
The Aggies trailed by two points early in the second half, but soon started hitting shots and used a big run to take a 10-point lead and go on to a 74-56 win on Saturday night.
Elston Turner scored 28 points and Ray Turner 16 to help A&M to the victory in the first-ever meeting between the new Southeastern Conference foes.
“That’s been our calling card all year. We’re going to play defense,” Elston Turner said. “Offense will come. We’re not really worried about offense. If we’re able to not let them score, we’ll score eventually.”
South Carolina couldn’t get anything going on offense for the first 10 minutes after halftime en route to just over 29-percent shooting in the second half.
The victory broke a two-game skid for Texas A&M (17-12, 7-9), and was the ninth loss in 10 games for South Carolina (13-16, 3-13).
Michael Carrera’s 16 points led the Gamecocks and Bruce Ellington added 10 points.
Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy credited the second-half success to a change to a zone defense after playing man-to-man in the first half.
South Carolina opened the second half with a tip-in basket by Mindaugas Kacinas to go up 34-32 for its first lead of the game. Both teams’ offenses went cold after that, with neither team making a field goal until Elston Turner’s jump shot with just under 15 minutes remaining. Kacinas made a pair of free throws beforehand to leave South Carolina up 36-34.
Elston Turner’s jump shot was the beginning of a 12-0 run that allowed the Aggies to take a 46-36 lead with about nine minutes remaining.
The Gamecocks went almost 11 minutes without a field goal and more than eight minutes without scoring at all. They missed 14 shots and had five turnovers in that span. Frustration boiled over for South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington during the drought, when he got a personal foul and a technical foul for arguing the call.
“If we keep missing open shot after open shot after open shot, it’s hard to win,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “Our defense was pretty good. We turned it over too much and we never made an open shot.”
South Carolina finally found some offense when Damien Leonard made a 3-pointer with about 8½ minutes left to cut A&M’s lead to 46-39.
The Aggies built their lead to 13 points about three minutes later before the Gamecocks used a 6-2 spurt capped by a 3-pointer by Carrera to get within 57-48.
Texas A&M responded with an 11-0 run to extend the advantage to 68-48 with about three minutes left.
Fabyon Harris had 12 points and three assists for A&M, and Elston Turner had five assists and tied a career best with four steals. Ray Turner set a career high with four blocks.
Kennedy thought a key to the game was the play of Ray Turner.
“It’s his best game, and a lot of it was transition baskets and offensive rebounds,” Kennedy said of Turner, who had five offensive rebounds. “That’s the most active he’s been in a while.”
Martin was happy with his team’s defense on Elston Turner in the first half, when he was limited to 10 points. He was not as pleased with South Carolina’s second-half performance against him.
“When you let him see that basket, it’s going to open the door for a long, long night,” said Martin, shaking his head.
A&M freshman Alex Caruso had two steals to set the school record for steals by a freshman with 58.
The Aggies scored 18 points off 17 South Carolina turnovers and shot almost 54 percent.
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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