- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - No. 8 Texas A&M; has slipped into a jumbled race for the Southeastern Conference title.

The Aggies lost for the third time in four games when Sindarius Thornwell scored 25 points to lead No. 25 South Carolina to an 81-78 win on Saturday.

Danuel House and Alex Caruso had 16 points apiece for Texas A&M; (18-5, 7-3), which has dropped its last three conference games. Jalen Jones scored 14 points in the Aggies’ first home loss of the season.

“We didn’t lose to a bum team and played bad,” coach Billy Kennedy said. “We lost to a good team, and just didn’t play well enough.”

Texas A&M; dropped into a tie for second in the SEC with South Carolina and Kentucky, one game back of LSU. The Aggies were on top of the conference by two games less than two weeks ago.

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 of South Carolina’s season-high 12 3-pointers. 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 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,” 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.

“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 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.

TIP-INS

South Carolina: Thornwell also had nine assists and 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.

UP NEXT

South Carolina hosts LSU on Wednesday.

Texas A&M; plays at Alabama on Wednesday.

QUOTABLE

“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.

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