ST. LOUIS (AP) - Collin Sexton drove the length of the court in the final seconds and hit a floater at the buzzer to give Alabama a 71-70 win over Texas A&M in the of the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday.
The win snaps a five-game losing streak for the ninth-seeded Crimson Tide (18-14), and it provides a much-needed boost for school's case for a bid to the NCAA Tournament - which it is trying to reach for the first time since 2012.
Sexton finished with 27 points, none bigger than his final shot. Alabama led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but the Aggies (20-12) rallied and went up 70-69 after a 3-pointer by T.J. Starks with 4.4 seconds remaining.
That's when Sexton took the inbounds pass and raced up the court for his winning shot. Dazon Ingram scored 13 points for the Crimson Tide, and Donta Hall added 11.
Starks matched his career high with 23 points in the loss for Texas A&M, and Admon Gilder had 15.
Texas A&M had won three in a row entering the game, including a 68-66 victory over the Crimson Tide six days ago. The No. 8 seed Aggies led by as many as seven points early in the first half, but Alabama surged ahead in to take a 35-28 halftime lead - only to need Sexton's last-second shot to hold on for the win.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide entered the game 56th in the NCAA's RPI ratings despite its late-season woes, thanks in large part to earlier victories this season over ranked opponents such as Auburn, Oklahoma, Florida and Tennessee. Alabama also has a win over a then-No. 5 Texas A&M on Dec. 30, and it will have another opportunity to impress the selection committee when it faces top-seeded Auburn on Friday. The Crimson Tide reached the tournament semifinals with a pair of victories last season.
Texas A&M: Even with the loss, the Aggies appear likely to reach the NCAA Tournament for a second time in three seasons after beginning the day 25th in RPI. Starks previously scored 23 points in a game at Auburn on Feb. 7. The freshman guard was 8 of 17 from the field on Thursday and appeared to have won the game with his late 3-pointer, only to watch as Sexton answered on the other end.
RECORDS / SERIES NOTES
● Texas A&M dropped a heartbreaker, falling to Alabama 71-70 on a buzzer-beater during the second round of the SEC Tournament in St. Louis … the loss saw the Aggies’ record fall to 20-12 on the season.
● The defeat settled the tiebreaker in the season series between the Aggies and Crimson Tide … the Aggies dropped a 79-57 matchup in Tuscaloosa earlier this season before ending the regular season with a two-point win in College Station last Saturday … Thursday’s result left the all-time series between the schools at 12-6 in favor of Alabama.
● Texas A&M owned a 44-33 edge in the rebounding column, including 17 offensive boards leading to 19 second chance points … the Aggies limited the Crimson Tide to nine offensive rebounds and just four second chance points.
● The Aggies racked up nine blocks in the contest, just two shy of their season-high of 11 set against South Carolina (2/3) and Pepperdine (11/24).
● Alabama took a 35-28 lead into the intermission after a sluggish opening period by both teams.
● A&M used the starting lineup combination of TJ Starks, Admon Gilder, DJ Hogg, Robert Williams and Tyler Davis for the 12th time this season (7-5).
● Rookie TJ Starks matched his career-high with 23 points, including a game-high 19 points in the second half… Starks finished 8-for-17 from the floor including a go ahead 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds to play in the game to help erase a 12-point deficit.
● Junior Tyler Davis corralled a game-high 10 rebounds despite being limited to 25 minutes of action due to foul trouble … the double-digit rebound mark set a new personal best in five career SEC Tournament games.
● Sophomore Robert Williams swatted seven Crimson Tide shots, the seven blocks matches teammate Tonny Trocha-Morelos for the third most blocks in a single game in program history … Williams matched Davis with 10 rebounds to go along with six points.
● Junior guard Admon Gilder was the only other Aggies in double figure scoring, finishing with 15 points … The 15 point mark is the most Gilder has scored in the SEC tournament, besting the 11 points he scored against Vanderbilt (3/9/17) last season.
● Aggie head coach Billy Kennedy fell to 135-97 during his seven-year tenure at Texas A&M and 346-276 in 20 seasons as a head coach.
● The Aggies will await their postseason fate as Selection Sunday is scheduled for March 11 and will be aired on TBS at 5 p.m. (CT)