From staff reports/Photo by Allen Sharpe
Juniors Te'a Cooper and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan dominated as No. 23 South Carolina defeated No. 21 Texas A&M 60-57 on the road Thursday night.
The Gamecocks (9-4) outscored the Aggies 32-20 in the second half, including a 21-10 advantage in the third quarter and made plays down the stretch to seal a win in their SEC opener for the sixth time in as many seasons.
Cooper scored 24 points on 7-of-18 from the floor, including 12 in the third quarter and two free throws with six seconds left to seal the victory. The junior guard also notched career highs in rebounds and assists with seven and six, respectively, while hitting 9-of-11 from the free throw line. Her 24 points marks the third time a Gamecock has scored at least 24 this season (Cooper twice, Harris once).
Mikiah Herbert Harrigan set a new career high in rebounds with 16, while blocking a career-high six shots all while scoring 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 32 minutes. She registered four blocks during the third quarter, matching her career high for an entire game in a six minute and 20 second stretch in which the Gamecocks outscored the Aggies 15-6.
"It's huge," South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said of the win. "We don't win here for some reason. I guess it's just with being in the SEC and on the road. Anytime you can get a road win in the SEC, it's a bonus."
South Carolina tied a season-high with 49 rebounds in the win, including 12 on the offensive glass that led to 10 second chance points.
The Gamecock defense locked in late in the fourth quarter, holding the Aggies to just two points in the final four minutes and 40 seconds. Sophomore LeLe Grissett came up with the huge defensive rebound on a missed Chennedy Carter free throw with eight seconds to play and the Gamecocks clinging to a one-point advantage.
SC led after three quarters, but the Aggies stormed into the fourth, capitalizing on three straight Carolina turnovers to go up 53-49. Herbert Harrigan stemmed the tide with a putback to cut into the deficit.
Cooper knotted the game with a drive, and Destanni Henderson delivered a big 3 at 5:09 that gave the Gamecocks the lead for good. Ty Harris then hit a clutch bucket with the shot clock running low, sinking a right-handed layup with 1:36 to go to give South Carolina a 58-55 advantage.
Texas A&M took control in the first quarter, using a 7-0 run to take a 15-8 lead after the first 10 minutes.
The third quarter was no different for Cooper, who upped her scoring output to 12 points, including the first five during a 10-0 run to help the Gamecocks take a 38-37 lead. Herbert Harrigan had an outstanding quarter, blocking four shots, tying her career high for a game, and helped the Gamecocks build a 49-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The win over Texas A&M is the first ranked win since the Gamecocks defeated No. 19 Georgia 71-49 in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. The Gamecocks (9-4) return home on Sunday, Jan. 6 to take on Alabama at noon on ESPNU. The Gamecocks then take on Florida at Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 10 at 7 p.m.