NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Jalen Jones made a go-ahead layup with 2:08 remaining and Alex Caruso followed with a steal and a layup 13 seconds later to key a late 7-0 run that pushed No. 17 Texas A&M past Florida 72-66 on Friday in the quarterfinals of Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Playing for the first time as the tournament’s top seed, the Aggies (25-7) needed everything to break free of a Florida team that stayed with them throughout a tight game featuring 11 ties and eight lead changes.
Danuel House followed those two quick baskets with a 3-pointer with 1:02 left to provide some more room, and Admon Gilder’s two free throws with 22.8 seconds left sealed the Aggies’ seventh straight win. Caruso added two more foul shots six seconds later.
House and Tyler Davis each scored 15 points for Texas A&M, which will face the Tennessee-LSU winner in Saturday’s semifinal. Jones finished with 13 points.
Kasey Hill’s 18 points led five players in double figures for eighth-seeded Florida (19-14).
Dorian Finney-Smith and John Egbunu each added 11 points for Florida, but Egbunu fouled out with just under three minutes left. Texas A&M then made several plays in the closing minutes to seal the back-and-forth game.
A day after dispatching Arkansas, Florida wondered whether it could win another game to help solidify its NCAA Tournament resume. The Gators gave it a run for a while, trading baskets and leads with the Aggies up to the 2:24 mark as Hill made two free throws to tie the game at 61.
Then came the final swing for Texas A&M as it closed the game on a 11-5 spurt.
First came Jones’ glide to the hoop, one of several athletic plays by the Aggies. Caruso followed by picking off a pass and racing down the court for another easy basket.
House’s long-range jumper provided the exclamation point, though it came down to Gilder’s free throws to make it final.
Both teams shot 39 percent, but the Aggies came away with a key win in their quest to win the tournament title.
House in particular thrived, despite 1-of-6 shooting from outside, making up for it with several quick moves including a baseline drive for a dunk. Davis, with eight rebounds, helped the Aggies stay even on the boards.
The Aggies’ problem was breaking free of a Florida squad that matched the same quick tempo and made more baskets. Allen and Finney-Smith combined for 16 points and got scoring help from other Gators who also chipped in on the boards.
Florida: Devin Robinson and Kevaughn Allen each had 10 points for the Gators, who outrebounded the Aggies 45-43.
Texas A&M: The Aggies entered the game having won their last six by an average margin of 10.1 points.
Florida: Awaiting postseason announcement.
Texas A&M: Faces Tennessee-LSU winner in Saturday’s semifinal.