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Florida reaches SEC final rallying from 18 down to beat Texas A&M 95-90

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Denzel Aberdeen scored a career-high 20 points in helping Florida rally from an 18-point deficit and beat Texas A&M 95-90 at the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals on Saturday.

Florida coach Todd Golden called this a breakout game for Aberdeen.

“His teammates needed him the most, and he delivered for us,” Golden said. “And we don’t win this game without him, so great job Denzel.”

The sixth-seeded Gators (24-10) earned Florida’s first trip to the tournament finals since 2014. The Gators not only won the SEC, they reached the Final Four that year. They will play No. 12 Auburn, a 73-66 winner over Mississippi State, for the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament berth on Sunday.

Aberdeen led five Gators in double figures. Will Richard scored 19 followed by Walter Clayton, Jr., with 16. Zyon Pullin and Tyrese Samuel had 15 apiece.

Richard praised how hard Aberdeen has worked, never complaining about anything.

“So I’m not surprised to see him come out here to do this,” Richard said. “We’re just proud of him. Everybody believed in him, and we know what he can do. I’m just proud to see that come to fruition.”

Texas A&M (20-14), the No. 7 seed, scored the first five points of the game and led 40-22 with 5:20 left in the half. Coach Buzz Williams said the Aggies were a bit out of sorts down the stretch as he worried about not having someone pick up a third foul.

“We’re disappointed with the result, but we also don’t want to miss the lessons that transpired this month, for sure,” Williams said of his Aggies losing for the first time in March.

Wade Taylor IV paced Texas A&M with a game-high 30 points. Sol Washington and Tyrece Radford each scored 18 and Manny Obaseki added 12.

Florida rallied in the final 3:17 to cut in the lead down late in the first half, but Manny Obaseki’s layup with 6 seconds left gave Texas A&M a 50-42 halftime lead.

The Gators opened the second half with five straight points to get within 54-52. Clayton hit a 3-pointer with 13:11 remaining for a 59-58 lead that was their first of the game. Texas A&M tied it up at 70 and again at 72. Florida went on an 8-0 run to take the lead for good.

BIG PICTURE

Texas A&M: In the regular season, Texas A&M edged Florida 67-66 as only the second team to hold the Gators under 70 points. This was the third straight trip to the semifinals for Texas A&M. Buzz Williams is the third coach to win 20 games in three straight seasons with the Aggies.

Florida: This was the first trip to the semifinals for Florida since 2019. Florida has won three games in the tournament with an opening 85-80 win over No. 11-seed Georgia and a 102-88 romp over No. 3 Alabama. The Gators sealed the win over A&M by going 7-of-8 at the free throw line in the final 94 seconds.

UP NEXT

Auburn lost at Florida 81-65 on Feb. 10.

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