Wednesday night was a time for making statements in the SEC, and several teams did just that.
The South Carolina Gamecocks made a claim for being one of the true top teams in the conference by beating the previously league leading LSU Tigers 94-83. Carolina has two huge wins in a row after having beaten Texas A&M over the weekend. The game was close throughout, with neither team ever getting a double digit lead at any point. The final two minutes were a free throw shooting contest, with no field goals coming between the 2:12 mark and the final ten seconds. South Carolina entered those last two minutes with a four point lead, made ten free throws including five from Sindarius Thornwell, and prevented LSU from getting any good looks until it was too late.
Thornwell led all scorers with 24 points, and Michael Carrera's 16 and Duane Notice's 15 backed him up. Antonio Blakeney had 22 and Ben Simmons had 20 for the visiting Tigers. Carolina's defense did a good job of denying Simmons in the first half, as the freshman phenom only collected five points before the break. The Gamecocks outrebounded the Tigers 36-33 on the night.
The Texas A&M Aggies made the wrong kind of statement as the Alabama Crimson Tide won an upset 63-62. A&M led for most of the first ten minutes of the game, but Bama outscored it 15-7 over the next ten minutes to take a 32-27 halftime lead. The Tide led the entire second half, eventually opening up a lead as large as 11 at 58-47 with 6:34 to go. The Aggies stormed back and cut the margin to the final one point with 55 seconds to go, but Anthony Collins missed a pair of free throws with 2.3 seconds left that allowed Alabama to come out with the win.
Jalen Jones did his part with 21 points, while Retin Obasohan was the high point man for the Tide with 16. The Aggies have now lost four of five, including four straight conference games. Maybe this is them finding their level after being higher than they should've been for a while, but Billy Kennedy has some real work to do to stop this slide. This win was Alabama's fourth of the season against teams in the top 28 of the current AP Poll, along with quality victories over Wichita State, South Carolina, and Notre Dame. The Tide hasn't moved itself into bubble contention just yet, but it's certainly looking like one of the most dangerous teams in the league right now.
Meanwhile, the Vanderbilt Commodores took care of business with an 86-71 home win over the Missouri Tigers. The 'Dores racked up a 15-2 lead over the first seven minutes, led 45-26 at halftime, and never allowed the game to be in doubt the rest of the way. All five Vandy starters hit double digits, topped by Wade Balwin IV at 17 points. Ryan Rosburg led all scorers with 24 for the Tigers.