COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A big day from long range kept Sindarius Thornwell and No. 25 South Carolina in the mix for the Southeastern Conference title.
Thornwell had 25 points and nine assists, and the Gamecocks made a season-high 12 3-pointers on their way to an 81-78 victory over No. 8 Texas A&M 81-78 on Saturday.
“Last year,” a smiling Thornwell said, “this is the type of game that we would have blown.”
Michael Carrera scored 20 points on 6-for-6 shooting, helping South Carolina (20-3, 7-3) bounce back from a 69-56 loss at Georgia on Tuesday. Mindaugus Kacinas finished with 11 points.
Carrera made five 3s, and Thornwell was 4 for 8 from long range.
“I’m real proud of our guys, because we hadn’t shot the ball well on the road in a while,” coach Frank Martin said. “We’ve taken good shots, just on the road they haven’t gone in.”
South Carolina, Texas A&M and Kentucky are tied for second in the SEC, one game back of LSU.
“We have to build on what we did today,” Martin said when asked about the jumbled SEC race. “These kids practice hard and believe in each other. We can’t worry about whenever the regular season ends. We have to stay in the moment.”
Danuel House and Alex Caruso had 16 points apiece for Texas A&M (18-5, 7-3), which has lost two in a row and three of four. Jalen Jones scored 14 points in the Aggies’ first home loss of the season.
“Besides (the Gamecocks) making as many 3-pointers as they did, everything else they did was expected,” Caruso said. “We game-planned to what they do, they just made more shots.”
South Carolina had an 80-78 lead when Carrera was fouled with 17 seconds remaining. He missed the first free throw and made the second, and House then missed a long 3-pointer from the left side with 8 seconds to go.
After the ball went out of bounds off A&M in a tussle for the rebound, South Carolina’s Laimonas Chatkevicius threw the ball out of bounds on an attempted inbounds with 5 seconds remaining. But A&M turned it over and South Carolina held on.
“We had a hard time guarding them, and getting the stops we needed to beat them,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said.
The game was tied at 70 when South Carolina’s PJ Dozier drove the right baseline and hit a soft jumper with 4:58 remaining.
Following a missed 3-point attempt by A&M point guard Anthony Collins, Carrera drilled a 3 to make it 75-70 at the 4:16 mark. Thornwell then scored four straight points to make it a nine-point lead with 2:24 remaining.
South Carolina went 12 of 21 from 3-point range, including 7 for 10 in the first half. South Carolina was shooting 33.9 percent (130 of 384) from the 3-point line coming into the day.
The Aggies also had a nice day from long range, going 12 for 25 from beyond the arc.
South Carolina: Thornwell also had three steals. ... The Gamecocks went 9 for 16 from the free-throw line. ... South Carolina outrebounded Texas A&M 32-30.
Texas A&M: The Aggies lost consecutive games for the first time this season. ... Caruso also had eight assists.
South Carolina hosts LSU on Wednesday.
Texas A&M plays at Alabama on Wednesday.
“What an adventure. It’s hard to close out a team that’s real good when you’re on the road.” — Martin, after South Carolina nearly blew a nine-point lead in the final two minutes.