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Aggies turn in 2nd upset of SEC quarterfinals, downing No. 9 Kentucky 97-87

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Texas A&M Aggies improved their candidacy for the NCAA Tournament at Kentucky's expense, and coach John Calipari got another reminder that his Wildcats must defend better to finish this season in a winning fashion.

Wade Taylor IV scored 32 points as Texas A&M upset ninth-ranked Kentucky 97-87 Friday night for the second biggest upset of the Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinals.

“He just has an elite level IQ off the floor," Aggies coach Buzz Williams said of Taylor. "But he has just as high of an IQ as a player. And he understands time scoring momentum arguably as well as anybody I’ve ever been around. He obviously has the ability to score, but he kind of has a vibe for, ‘Should I score? Should I shoot?’”

Calipari noted Texas A&M's eighth Quad 1 win, saying the Aggies are fine for an NCAA berth. Williams wouldn't answer when asked about that prediction.

The seventh-seeded Aggies won their fifth straight to reach Saturday's semifinals for the third time since joining the SEC and second in three seasons. The Aggies, who lost the final in 2016 and 2022, will play Florida, a 102-88 winner over No. 19 Alabama as the SEC's top three seeds all lost their openers Friday.

Texas A&M lost the 2022 title game to Tennessee, the regular season champs who were ousted in Friday's first game by Mississippi State.

Tyrece Radford added 23 points, Manny Obaseki had 17 and Solomon Washington 11 for Texas A&M (20-13). The Aggies beat Kentucky for the second time after needing overtime on Jan. 13.

Not Friday night.

The loss snapped Kentucky's five-game winning streak that had been the SEC's longest coming into this tournament. Now the Wildcats (23-9), whose 31 titles have set such a standard this event is often called the Kentucky Invitational, are going home still looking for their first tournament championship since 2018.

Calipari said his Wildcats didn't pass the ball the way they had been doing during their streak.

“When the ball stops, we’re not the same team,” Calipari said. “Go 1-on-5, you can’t make a play that way. We haven’t for weeks. Today we kind of did. ... But they deserved that game the way they played. Again, I mean, we give up 97. How many games you going to win giving up 97 points?”

Antonio Reeves, Kentucky's leading scorer averaging 22.2 points, was limited to 18 minutes before fouling out and finishing with 13 points. Rob Dillingham led Kentucky with 27 points, and Reed Sheppard added 14.

The Aggies jumped out with eight of the first nine points to help quiet the Kentucky faithful that filled much of Bridgestone Arena. Then they kept knocking down 3s, shooting better outside the arc than inside.

Taylor led the way in a game that felt much more like a tennis match with both teams sprinting up and down the court. Texas A&M led 48-42 at halftime.

Kentucky last led when Sheppard finished off a steal with a fast-break layup for a 16-15 edge at 13:15. Washington answered with a 3, and the Aggies never trailed again.

BIG PICTURE

Texas A&M: The Aggies scored a season-high in points in regulation. The SEC's best at protecting the ball did it again. They had a 6-14 edge in turnovers that they turned into an 18-4 scoring advantage. The Aggies now are 13-2 when having nine or fewer turnovers. ... They also had a 26-9 edge in second-chance points.

Kentucky: The Wildcats fell to 46-13 in quarterfinals and 135-30 all-time. ... Tre Mitchell also fouled out.

UP NEXT

The Aggies play Florida in the semifinals on Saturday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball