SEC basketball roundup: Aggies outlast No. 6 Kentucky in OT

Texas A&M guard Wade Taylor IV (4) reacts after making a 3-point basket against Kentucky late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Wade Taylor IV scored a game-high 31 points, Tyrece Radford scored a season-high 28 and Texas A&M defeated No. 6 Kentucky 97-92 in overtime on Saturday.

Radford hit the only field goal of the overtime period, and went 1 for 2 at the free throw line. Taylor made all four of his free throws in the extra frame.

Taylor hit 6 of 13 from 3-point range after having shot 3 of 20 in his last two games.

In their last two games, both Southeastern Conference losses, the Aggies shot under 30% from the field and under 20% from 3-point range.

“I think it’s just the exact opposite of what happened here last Saturday (against LSU),” coach Buzz Williams said. “Different opponent, but how we operated, how we work, how we competed was more aligned with who we have to be.”

With seven seconds remaining in regulation, and the score tied at 87, Radford hit both of his free throws, after going 0 for 5 at the free throw line. The Aggies (10-6, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) forced a long 3-pointer by Rob Dillingham as time wound off the clock, but Radford was called for a foul on the rebound attempt and sent Reed Sheppard to the line with less than a second remaining. Sheppard hit both for the Wildcats (12-3, 2-1) sending the game to overtime.

Through the final five minutes of the game, Dillingham and Taylor combined to hit seven 3-pointers in the back-and-forth affair.

“I told our team, ‘They’re desperate. They’re a desperate team at home. They’ve got to have this game. Let’s make it hard to beat us,’” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “I thought we did, but the end of regulation when we had a chance and the overtime, it was like, ‘I’m just going to do my own thing.’ And that’s on me as a coach.”

Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves scored 22, including 5 of 10 from behind the line. D.J. Wagner had 18 and Dillingham had 15 for the Wildcats.

A&M shot 38% from 3-point range in the game, its highest mark in the category since its Dec. 6 win over DePaul. Kentucky finished at 39% making 15 of 39 from behind the arc.

The Aggies jumped out to a 15-8 lead in the first four minutes of the game and saw that lead extend to 11 with five minutes remaining in the first half. Taylor finished the first half 3 of 6 from 3-point range.

Kentucky’s transition game fed its offensive through the first half, with senior guard Reeves hitting 16 points in the opening 20.

“We just wanted to continue to get stops, because we know stops will lead us into our offense,” Taylor said. “They scored 90 points, which is a lot, but I feel like we were still together as a team. We told each other, ’Just keep shooting. Shots are going to fall and we’ll be fine. I think that’s what happened today.”

Knecht drops 36, Vols snap UGA's win streak

ATHENS, Ga. — Dalton Knecht had what Tennessee coach Rick Barnes described as “that look in his eye.”

The Vols needed Knecht's look — and all his points — to avoid a second straight Southeastern Conference loss.

Knecht scored 36 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer with less than 2 minutes remaining, and No. 5 Tennessee recovered after losing a 14-point lead to beat Georgia 85-79 on Saturday and end the Bulldogs' 10-game winning streak.

Barnes says he can tell Knecht, a senior transfer from Northern Colorado, has “that look” by his demeanor on the court.

“You can just tell he’s got a little bounce about him,” Barnes said. “... He likes the moment. He does.”

Knecht finished one point shy of the career-high 37 he scored in a loss to North Carolina on Nov. 29. He made five of eight 3-pointers and finished strong, scoring 20 points in the second half.

Knecht’s final 3 gave the Vols an 81-79 lead. He added two free throws with 16 seconds remaining to extend the advantage.

Tennessee (12-4, 2-1 SEC) blew a 42-28 lead in the first half and trailed by 11 points before recovering in the closing minutes.

“I really wish we could have finished the 40 minutes, because we were pretty good for 35,” Georgia coach Mike White said.

When asked if the loss felt like a missed opportunity or a sign of success to come, White said “Both. ... We got out-executed down the stretch by a team that's just better than us right now.”

Jabri Abdur-Rahim led Georgia (12-4, 2-1) with 21 points.

Georgia used a 15-0 run to wipe out a 14-point deficit before seeing the fourth-longest winning streak in school history end. The Bulldogs were denied their first win over a top-five team since Jan. 17, 2004, when they beat No. 5 Kentucky 65-57 at Rupp Arena.

Tennessee regrouped following a 77-72 loss at Mississippi State on Wednesday.

The Vols threatened to put the game out of reach late in the first half, when a steal and basket by Zakai Zeigler gave Tennessee a 42-28 lead.

A 3-pointer by Georgia's Blue Cain, who is from Knoxville, Tennessee, was the highlight of the Bulldogs' 9-0 run to close the first half, leaving the Vols with a 42-37 halftime lead. The Vols missed their last seven shots from the field before the break. Abdur-Rahim and Noah Thomasson opened the second half by sinking 3-pointers, stretching the run to 15-0 and giving the Bulldogs a 43-42 lead.

Barnes called a timeout less than a minute into the half. A layup by Tennessee's Josiah-Jordan James ended the Bulldogs' run, but Georgia kept its momentum. Back-to-back baskets by Thomasson, including a 3-pointer, gave Georgia a 69-58 lead.

Cain sank two 3-pointers in the final 7 minutes, including a jumper after Tennessee pulled to within five points at 75-70.

Thomasson, who missed his first four shots, scored 14 points.

Auburn handles LSU

AUBURN, Ala. — Chad Baker-Mazara had 19 points and six steals off the bench and No. 16 Auburn won its ninth straight by double digits, 93-78 over LSU on Saturday night.

Auburn (14-2, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) had a season-high 16 steals and scored 26 points off of 17 turnovers from LSU (10-6, 2-1).

Johni Broome added 18 points and seven rebounds for Auburn, which shot 40% on 3-pointers.

“With the ability to get excited about playing every night, you know, I thought we did fairly well,” Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl said. “I thought we played good basketball in the first half. We shot it well, we turned them over.”

Auburn hit 27 of 31 free throws, giving the team its best percentage from the line in a game with at least 30 attempts since a win over Arkansas on Feb. 27, 2018. The Tigers are now shooting 75.5% on free throws as a team this season, which is on track to be the program’s best mark since the 2017-18 season.

LSU cut an early Auburn lead to two with 6:37 left in the first half, but Auburn closed with an 19-4 run to go into halftime with a 17-point lead. Auburn held LSU scoreless for more than five minutes of the run.

Auburn led by 28 in the second half before a 21-2 LSU run cut the hosts’ lead back to single-digits. Baker-Mazara then hit a 3-pointer with 4:13 remaining to reassert Auburn’s control.

“It killed their energy,” Baker-Mazara said. “Everybody got really excited, really hyped — and I feel like that was the start to our run back.”

Auburn has now won nine straight games for the first time since the 2021-22 season, when it won 19 in a row and climbed to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time in school history.

LSU was led by Trae Hannibal and Jordan Wright with 18 points each. LSU shot 39% from 3-point range.

"(Auburn) does a great job of turning people over, but when 16 of those 17 turnovers are steals, that means you’re in big trouble in transition,” LSU head coach Matt McMahon said. “They made us pay for those. You’re really better off just throwing it up in the stands than having that many steals allowed in the game.”

Saturday marked the first game LSU has lost with transfer point guard Jalen Cook in the starting lineup. Cook, who made his debut in December, scored a season-low seven points and had five turnovers.

“He was splitting the ball screens some to start the game, and he was getting productive with that, so we just tried to slow that down,” Auburn point guard Aden Holloway said. “I feel like once we slowed that down, then it kind of messed his rhythm up a little bit.”

Wright hits late, South Carolina squeaks past Mizzou in OT

COLUMBIA, Mo. — South Carolina reserve Jacobi Wright scored 11 points and his fadeaway jumper over Missouri's 7-foot-5 Connor Vanover with 13 seconds left in overtime served as the game winner and the Gamecocks beat the Tigers 71-69 on Saturday.

B.J. Mack led South Carolina (14-2, 2-1 SEC) with 21 points, shooting 7 for 13 and making all six of his foul shots. Ta’Lon Cooper scored 11 and Myles Stute 10 for South Carolina.

Noah Carter led Missouri (8-8, 0-3) with 23 points, shooting 9 for 20 overall but just 2 for 10 from 3-point range. Carter's final miss from 3 was an off-balance, contested shot as time expired to end the game.

Sean East II added 15 points for Missouri and Tamar Bates scored 12. Missouri never trailed in the second half until overtime.

Wright made two foul shots with 2:58 left in overtime to give South Carolina a 64-62 lead, the Gamecocks' first since Cooper's dunk for a 32-31 lead with 1:12 left before halftime. After Wright's foul shots, Cooper converted a three-point play to push the lead to 67-62.

After Carter and Mack traded layups to make it 69-64, Carter made a pair of foul shots with 1:22 left and made a 3 to tie it at 69 with 36 seconds to go before Wright's game winner.

Cooper's 3-pointer with 25 seconds left in regulation knotted it at 62. Missouri called timeout with 19 seconds remaining to set a play. East dribbled for a final shot before Cooper fouled him with 7.4 seconds for just the Gamecocks' sixth foul of the half. Off the dead ball, East missed a tough jumper at the buzzer that Cooper almost blocked.

South Carolina survived 16 turnovers, one off its season-high 17.

Crimson Tide score final 8 points, win at Mississippi State

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mark Sears scored 22 points and Alabama scored the last eight points to beat Mississippi State 82-74 on Saturday night for its fifth straight win.

Mississippi State trailed by as many as 10 points and for most of the second half, but took a 70-69 lead on Tolu Smith's layup with 4:32 to play. Rylan Griffen answered with a layup and Sears hit a 3 and Alabama lead 74-70.

Shakeel Moore and Cameron Matthews each made a layup to tie the game 74-all with 2:42 remaining before Sears scored next the six points on a jumper and four free throws to help seal it.

Sears was 6 of 12 from the floor, made two 3-pointers and all eight of his free throws. Latrell Wrightsell Jr. hit five from distance and scored 19 points for Alabama (11-5, 3-0 Southeastern Conference). Griffen finished with 17 points.

Smith scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Mississippi State (12-4, 1-2). Josh Hubbard added 14 points, Moore had 13 and Matthews 12.

Sears scored eight points during a 22-9 run to give Alabama a 62-52 with 12 minutes left. Wrightsell's 3 made it 65-57, but then Alabama went nearly four minutes without scoring before Griffen’s layup ended the drought, and the Crimson Tide led 67-62 with 7:05 remaining.

Smith scored six points during an 8-2 spurt that gave the Bulldogs their one-point lead late.

Wrightsell scored 11 points and Griffen had 10 as Alabama took a 40-38 advantage into the break. Smith and D.J. Jeffries scored seven points apiece for the Bulldogs.

Ole Miss fends off Vandy

OXFORD, Miss. — Matthew Murrell scored 24 points and Allen Flanigan scored 16 points and Mississippi fought off scrappy Vanderbilt before pulling away for a 69-56 win on Saturday.

Murrell scored 18 points in the first half shooting 7 of 8 including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. He finished 9 for 17 overall and 6 for 12 from distance. Jaylen Murray added 12 points for the Rebels (15-1, 2-1 SEC)

Tyrin Lawrence scored 14 points, reserve Jason Rivera-Torres 12 and Ezra Manjon 11 for Vanderbilt (5-11, 0-3).

Ole Miss built a 17-10 lead before the Commodores rallied with a 13-5 run for a 23-22 lead. Ole Miss responded and posted its first double-digit lead to make it 38-28 and led 41-32 at halftime.

Later, Flanigan made a jumper, converted a three-point play and another jumper in succession to push the margin to 53-39 with 13:19 remaining.

Vanderbilt used an 8-0 run to get within 55-52 when JaQualon Roberts buried an open straight-away 3-pointer with 8:17 remaining. The Rebels immediately countered when Murray made a three-pointer 16 seconds later. 

On the Commodores' ensuing possession, the Rebels' Jamarion Sharp blocked Lawrence's shot into the stands. Following a TV timeout, Vanderbilt failed to get off an attempt as the shot clock expired.

Murrell proceeded to connect on another three, Murray came up with a steal on Lawrence before Vanderbilt's Manjon fouled him on a layup attempt. 

Murray sank two fouls shots with 6:48 left, Flanigan made two more free throws for the Rebels 25 seconds later and their 10-point run made it 65-52 with 6:23 left and they stayed up by double digits the remainder.