Kentucky-Texas A&M Preview
A putback at the buzzer against the SEC's perennial power last month helped surprising Texas A&M earn a share of its first regular-season conference title in 30 years.
Three weeks later, the Aggies can continue to be a thorn in Kentucky's side with their first tournament championship since that same era.
While top-seeded Texas A&M looks to win its first conference tournament since 1987, the No. 2 Wildcats will try for their second straight title and fourth in the last seven years when they meet for Sunday's SEC championship in Nashville.
Sixteenth-ranked Kentucky (25-8) would have earned its second straight outright regular-season title if not for a 79-77 overtime loss at College Station on Feb. 20.
Instead, a late technical foul from a Wildcat freshman and Tyler Davis' putback at the buzzer gave No. 17 Texas A&M (26-7) its second of six straight wins to close the regular season. That run helped the Aggies recover from a midseason slump and match the Wildcats' 13-5 league record for their first title since 1986.
The regular-season shared crown set up a collision course in the bracket toward Sunday's championship. While Kentucky plays for the trophy for the sixth time in seven seasons, Texas A&M will suit up for its first title game since a loss to Texas in the 1994 Southwest Conference championship.
Escaping Saturday's semifinal came much easier than anyone expected for the Aggies. They tallied their eighth straight victory by trouncing fourth-seeded LSU and freshman phenom Ben Simmons 71-38.
Texas A&M held the Tigers to a season low in points and made field goals (13) during the lowest-scoring team output in any major conference this season. LSU, which shot 20.6 percent, was the first team held below 40 points in the SEC tournament since Mississippi State in 1985.
''You don't envision beating someone by 40 in the semifinal game before you try and go to the championship, but that's just how the game played out,'' senior guard Alex Caruso said. ''They kind of withered down as we got stronger.''
Tonny Trocha-Morelos and Admon Gilder combined for 23 points off the bench, while Jalen Jones added 12.
Kentucky's 93-80 victory over sixth-seeded Georgia was a bit closer than the final score indicated. The game was tight through the opening 30 minutes, but the Wildcats used a late 11-3 run to pull away.
One of the nation's top backcourts fueled the second-half surge as Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray combined for 51 points, hitting 7 of 14 3s.
The Wildcats shot 50 percent, their fourth straight game hitting that mark - all victories.
''If we play the way we played today and everybody clicks as a team, I think we can come out with the win,'' said Isaiah Briscoe, who had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Ulis and Murray combined for 43 points in last month's loss to A&M.
Murray has been on fire since Feb. 6, averaging 25.6 points while hitting 53.3 percent of his 3-pointers in 11 games. Ulis has made 6 of 9 3s in Kentucky's two tournament wins.
Before Davis' game-winning putback over the Wildcats last month, Kentucky freshman Isaac Humphries received a technical foul for spiking the ball with nine seconds left. The Wildcats won three of their final four games that followed to earn a share of their second straight regular-season title.
Three of the last four games in this series have needed overtime. Kentucky won the first two as part of three straight wins, 72-68 in overtime on Feb. 2, 2013, and 70-64 in double-OT on Jan. 10, 2015.