Another year, another SEC Tournament Championship for the Kentucky Wildcats. For the third-straight season, the Wildcats (29-5, 16-2 SEC) will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with their 82-65 win over Arkansas (25-9, 12-6 SEC).
Alas, those are only two of the 14 teams in the SEC. Here’s how the rest of the tournament shook out, and how these two teams came to face off in the final.
The first round featured the cliché mascots of the conference, with the 12-seed Mississippi State Bulldogs facing off against the 13-seed LSU Tigers, and the No. 11 Auburn Tigers battling the SEC’s worst team, the 14-seed Missouri Tigers.
The first matchup on Wednesday between Mississippi State and LSU was a beatdown by the Bulldogs, who knocked out LSU, 79-52.
The nightcap, on the other hand, was a thriller. Missouri eventually won the battle of the Tigers, 86-83, but not before sending the game to overtime and hitting a buzzer-beater in the extra period. Kevin Puryear was the hero in the game, hitting the buzzer-beater and leading all scorers with 30 points.
The second round of the SEC Tournament was packed full of action, with four games being played on Thursday. Eight teams played, but only four prevailed past the second round, and most of those teams made it to round three with ease.
No. 5 seed Alabama, No. 6 seed Ole Miss and No. 7 seed Vanderbilt all took care of business, each winning their second-round games by 12 points or more.
Georgia, on the other hand, engaged in a back-and-forth affair with ninth-seeded Tennessee, but eventually grabbed a 59-57 victory after 60 minutes of close play. The Bulldogs’ two best players, J.J. Frazier and Yante Maten, both scored double-digit points, with Frazier picking up a double-double )17 points and 10 boards).
It was a good day for odd-numbered seeds on Friday, with No. 1 Kentucky, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 5 Alabama and No. 7 Vanderbilt all picking up wins over their even-numbered foes. Much like the first round, competition increased as the day went on.
In the first game of the day, Kentucky defeated Georgia, 71-60. Alabama added to the 11-point win party with a 64-53 win over the Gamecocks. Vanderbilt almost crashed the party, but was only able to beat Florida by 10 points and eventually upset the second-seeded Gators, 72-62.
The final game of the quarterfinals, Arkansas narrowly escaped the Ole Miss Rebels with a 73-72 win to advance. Daryl Macon led the Razorbacks with 17 points and chipped in the game-sealing free throws that Arkansas needed.
The road to the SEC Championship had been easy thus far for Kentucky, but wasn’t so against Alabama. De’Aaron Fox posted 28 points and his backcourt companion, Malik Monk, added 20. Bam Adebayo had a near-double-double with 10 points and 9 rebounds, and the Wildcats only won by five, 79-74.
The next-to-last game was far easier for the Razorbacks, who pummeled Vanderbilt, 76-62. Moses Kingsley had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The tournament game featured back-and-forth play in the beginning of first half, but there was little doubt as to who the victor would be in the final period. Kentucky took a 42-30 lead into the break and never relinquished a double-digit lead. Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk each had 17 points, but De’Aaron Fox—the eventual tournament MVP—led the Wildcats with 18.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Craig Bisacre, courtesy of Tennessee Athletics