South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks roll to SEC Tournament semifinals after defeating Texas A&M Aggies

South Carolina basketball will play in the SEC Tournament semifinals after knocking off the Texas A&M Aggies in the conference tournament quarterfinals.

South Carolina basketball freshman Tessa Johnson
South Carolina basketball freshman Tessa Johnson / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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South Carolina basketball is in search of their 8th SEC Tournament championship in 10 years. Standing between them and another trophy are three opponents, starting with the Texas A&M Aggies in the quarterfinals. After earning a double-bye in the tournament by winning the regular season championship, they met up with the Aggies following A&M's win over Mississippi State.

The crowd in Bon Secours Wellness Arena was rocking in favor of the in-state Gamecocks even before the opening tip.

Gamecock post player Kamilla Cardoso won the ball for her team on the toss, and Carolina got on the scoreboard first with an 18-foot jumper from Chloe Kitts. Janiah Barker answered with a midrange of her own to tie the score, but a blow-by drive from Raven Johnson put USC back on top.

After a quick back-and-forth stretch, the score was tied 6-6, but the nation's leading 3-point shooter Te-Hina Paopao cashed in from the corner. A turnover-fest broke out over the next minute, but Bree Hall broke the stretch of giveaways with a perimeter jumper of her own. Janiah Barker hit a 3 to answer for A&M, and then more sloppy basketball sent the game to the media timeout.

When Carolina committed their 8th turnover of the 1st quarter (yes, 8, including 7 in 7 minutes), Texas A&M trailed the Gamecocks by just one point. The lead was just 16-13 in favor of USC as the period ended after the team's 10th giveaway. South Carolina basketball fans also weren't happy with the officials as there had been 5 fouls called on their favorite team, and Chloe Kitts was in foul trouble.

The turnovers continued at the start of the 2nd quarter, and A&M took the lead 17-16 on the ensuing possession when Lauren Ware hit a shot from the top of the key. 4 Tessa Johnson free throws put her team up 20-17, and the Gamecock run continued as Johnson had a great stretch. After her foul shots, she had a big block on a layup attempt and knocked down a 3-pointer as part of a 9-0 run.

Janiah Barker scored a 2nd chance bucket to end the run, but MiLaysia Fulwiley found Kamilla Cardoso running the floor for an immediate answer. With a 27-19 lead, the Gamecocks had played a much cleaner 2nd quarter.

Aicha Coulibaly canned a 3-pointer in the middle of another stretch of turnovers from the Gamecocks, but the defense stayed strong. A Raven Johnson score put South Carolina basketball up by 9, and then Kamilla Cardoso found Sania Feagin on a nice big-to-big connection to end the half. Despite 15 turnovers, Carolina led 33-22.

After halftime, Chloe Kitts and Endyia Rogers traded tough jump shots, but Kitts' feet were on the 3-point arc, so hers was worth 1 fewer point. Then Kitts and Lauren Ware traded buckets, but Ware was fouled, so after the free throw, the Aggies had cut into the lead by another point.

Janiah Barker earned her 3rd foul (despite her complaints) on an and-1 conversion from Kamilla Cardoso, but Barker scored back-to-back buckets. Joni Taylor left her in, but the move didn't pay off as she picked up her 4th a moment later.

With Barker on the bench, South Carolina's lead grew to 14 points in no time at all. After scoring her 8th point of the quarter, Cardoso picked up her 3rd foul and left the game. Aicha Coulibaly led a small run, and when the final buzzer sounded at the end of the period, the score was just 57-48.

Tessa Johnson kept up her strong play with a 3-point play early in the 4th. Kamilla Cardoso followed the freshman's example and scored 3 points as A&M just wouldn't go away. A Te-Hina Paopao 3-ball put the Gamecocks up by 14 with just over 6 minutes to go, and the shot took the wind out of the Aggies' basketball sails.

A technical foul was levied against MJ Johnson for throwing a fit after an obvious foul call. The 17-point lead that resulted from the free throws proved insurmountable. Over the final 5 minutes of the contest, most of the starters left the game. The only starters who remained were Raven Johnson and Chloe Kitts, and Kitts quickly fouled out Janiah Barker. Coulibaly added a lot of garbage time points to pad her numbers and give her a new career-high.

The Gamecocks held on for the double-digit victory, and Dawn Staley's team will face off with the winner of Tennessee and Alabama in the tournament semifinals.

Final. 68. 535. South Carolina Basketball vs. Texas A&M Aggies. 79. 533