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NASHVILLE, Tenn.--These Aggies keep making history.
After ending a 30-year regular season conference title drought last week, the Texas A&M basketball team soared into the SEC Tournament championship game with a resounding, thorough and humiliating defeat of LSU, 71-38 on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
With the win, A&M (26-7) earned a spot in its first conference tournament championship game since 1994. The Aggies will play Kentucky, who advanced with a 93-80 win over Georgia in the other semifinal.
But the history with this whopping win doesn't stop there. The end result had national writers scouring team and league record books to contextualize the final score. The carnage was convincing:
*The victory equaled the largest ever for A&M in a postseason tournament game, matching an 86-53 victory over Colorado in the 2006 Big 12 Tournament.
*It was the fewest points scored by an A&M opponent in postseason history.
*LSU did not break the 30 point mark until 2:15 remained in the game, and the Tigers scored 10 points--26.3 percent of their total--after the Aggies had emptied the bench in the final two-and-a-half minutes.
*It was the fewest points scored in an SEC Tournament game by any team since 1985.
*LSU's 38 points was the fewest scored by a major college team this season (ACC, Big 12, Big 10, SEC, Pac-12).
Indeed, it was a record book type of day for the Aggies. After a slow start, the Tigers jumped to an early 8-3 lead before the Aggie defense morphed into Fort Knox.
Tonny Trocha-Morelos drilled a pair of three-pointers to even the game, and the Aggies delivered a series of knockout blows that culminated in a 32-5 run to close the first half.
Any chances of a heroic comeback were thwarted early in a second half that saw A&M score on alley-oops, 3-pointers, fast breaks, half-court sets and with good, old-fashioned execution.
"I'm thrilled with the effort we played with on the defensive end," said A&M coach Billy Kennedy. "We did a really good job of being physical, walling up and forcing them to take some tough shots."
LSU barely managed to break the 20 percent mark on field goals, finishing just 20.6 percent for the game, a season low by far for an A&M opponent.
For the second straight day, freshman Admon Gilder delivered a dagger to the opposition. Against Florida on Friday, Gilder hit two free throws in the closing seconds to ice the win. Against LSU, he hit a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer that electrified the sellout crowd. The Tigers never recovered.
"You don't envision beating someone like that in a semifinal game," said senior Alex Caruso, who finished with a game high five assists and just one turnover. "They kind of withered down as we got stronger. It's a testament to how hard we play. When we play hard and we've got five guys that are working for the same goal, it's amazing what our team is capable of."
A&M did a number on heralded LSU freshman Ben Simmons. After the possible top pick in the NBA Draft scored the first two baskets of the game, Simmons didn't score another field goal until the 10:57 mark of the second half. Clearly frustrated with the Aggies' stifling defense, Simmons was tagged with a technical foul with 3:05 remaining in the game after slamming the ball down after missing another shot.
By that time, the game was far out of hand. Kennedy pulled most of the starters with 9 minutes remaining and finally emptied the bench with a couple minutes remaining.
And now, history is again at A&M's doorstep.
Standing in the way is a Kentucky Wildcat team still seething about the 79-77 overtime classic the two played in College Station on Feb. 20. Kentucky has been on a tear to close the season, scoring at least 85 points in its last four games.
Sunday's tournament final will be just the fourth in A&M school history. Seven of A&M's 14 players had not been born in March 1994, when A&M advanced to the Southwest Conference finals. Many of their parents had probably not even met in 1987, which was the last year the Aggies won a postseason tournament.
"I was only 1-year-old in 1994," said Jones, who finished with 12 points and six rebounds in just 18 minutes. "We expected to make history this year. We have all the pieces with the players and the coaching staff. We feel like we are supposed to be here. To make more history tomorrow would be a special moment. We are planning to come out with a victory."
This is my way of telling Texas A&M 'Thank you.'"