The Kentucky Wildcats' big overtime win against Texas A&M sets them up for a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is Kentucky's 29th SEC Tournament Title, the most in history.
The game between the #16 Wildcats and the #17 Aggies went all the way to overtime. It was back and forth for most of the game, with no team able to pull ahead (the largest lead of the game was 7).
The last meeting between the two teams went to overtime as well. In that game however, the Aggies walked away victorious. TAMU's 79-77 overtime win on February 20th came down to the wire with Tyler Davis hitting a buzzer-beating put-back. That shot was made possible by a foolish technical foul on Kentucky's Isaac Humphries. The Wildcats could have very well won the game if the controversial tech was never called.
To end regulation in this game, Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis missed a fadeaway shot to possibly win the game over the outstretched arms of Alex Caruso. Then, in overtime, the game was very close until Kentucky hit two clutch threes with just under a minute left.
Tyler Ulis Has Career Game In UK's Biggest Matchup Of The Year So Far
Kentucky players' versatility and athleticism was on display on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, especially Tyler Ulis'. Ulis, the 2016 SEC Player of the Year, attacked the rim but also showed a nice shooting touch (3-5 from deep for the game). Ulis, also the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, locked down whoever he was guarding on defense, also forcing three steals. The 5'9" point guard was also named Player of the Tournament. Ulis finished the game with 30 points.
Jamal Murray was shut down for the first half. It looked like he was going to heat up after an early three in the second half, but it never happened in the second half. However, in overtime, Murray hit a long pull-up three to clinch the game for the Wildcats. The Australian youngster's defense also came up big for the Wildcats, garnering two steals. On offense, Murray should have taken advantage of his size more; on the one occasion he posted up, he drew a foul.
Other impact players for the Wildcats were Derek Willis (10 points and a clutch three in overtime), and Isaiah Briscoe (10 points, six assists, five rebounds, two steals).
At the 1/4 mark of the second half, the Wildcats went on a 11-3 run. That run was fueled by forcing steals and executing in transition. This was one of the defining moments of the game for the Wildcats. After a smart timeout by Billy Kennedy, Danuel House quickly regained the league for the SEC Regular Season Co-Champions.
Brutal, Physical Game
House was easily the MVP for the Aggies; he ended the game with a career high 32 points. House could not be stopped on his way to the hoop, looking like a halfback trying to muscle his way for the first down. It was easily his best game of his life so far. House tied the game at 71 with 18 seconds left by swishing a floater as he was falling onto the ground.
Other standout performers for the Aggies were Alex Caruso (11 points, eight rebounds), and Jalen Jones (15 points, nine rebounds).
The Aggies offense was executing very well for most of the game. The Aggies' second half game plan was to post up down low. This proved to be harder than expected. Kentucky held Aggies' top post player Tyler Davis to only eight points for the game.
Both defenses were on point, forcing each other to take low quality shots late in the shot clock. It was a physical game for both teams on both sides of the ball. The Aggies had a few defensive lapses in the first half, such as Aggie defenders playing up on Isiah Briscoe, who is not a shooting threat.
Both teams shot well from the field in the first (Kentucky with a 52% mark and Texas A&M with a 43% mark). The Aggies struggled shooting from deep in the first half, missing their first five shots from beyond the arc. Kentucky's kryptonite for the first half was their poor free throw shooting, 60% in the first half. They improved that mark to 75% for the game.
Early foul trouble caused the Wildcats to sit star players in the early going. Marcus Lee, Skal Labissierre, Alex Poythress each had two fouls before the first half horn sounded. The freshman Labissiere showed his lack of polish early on, picking up two silly fouls in the first two minutes of play. This caused Coach Calipari to sit him for most of the first half. Aggies point guard Anthony Collins also had to sit out most of the first half with two early fouls. Texas A&M also lost their premier post player Tyler Davis for most of the first half because of fouls.
Both teams had reasonably easy paths to the championship game. Kentucky easily beat Alabama in the quarterfinal by 26 but had difficulties against Georgia. Although they struggled in that semifinal game, Kentucky ended up mounting a comeback and winning by 13.
Although it was a close game between the top-seeded Aggies and the Florida Gators, TAMU still pulled out the win in the quarterfinal. In the semifinal game the Aggies absolutely obliterated the LSU Tigers, beating them by 33 points.
Kentucky is certainly making a case for a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. A&M on the other hand is probably looking at a #5 seed. These teams could very well meet up in the Sweet Sixteen, assuming they are placed in the same region. That game would certainly be an exciting game, just like the one earlier today.
All stats courtesy of statbroadcast.com