TAMPA, Fla. — The first game of the second round of the Southeastern Conference men's basketball tournament set a high bar for the rest of the day's action at Amalie Arena, with Texas A&M surviving an overtime clash with Florida.
The nightcap measured up — particularly for fans of the Vanderbilt Commodores, who provided the first upset of this year's tourney.
Scotty Pippen Jr. scored 26 points, Myles Stute added 18 and 11th-seeded Vanderbilt rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit to beat sixth-seeded Alabama 82-76 late Thursday, ending the Crimson Tide's bid to repeat as tournament champions.
The Tide (19-13) beat Vanderbilt 74-72 on Feb. 22 in Nashville in the teams' lone regular-season meeting, but after the Commodores routed 14th-seeded Georgia on Wednesday night in the first round, Pippen declared Alabama was "a very beatable team a team we wanted to play."
With his famous father in the stands Thursday, he proved himself right, helping send the Commodores (17-15) into Friday's quarterfinals against third-seeded and fifth-ranked Kentucky (25-6).
Pippen was only 5-of-19 from the floor but made 15 of 21 free throws; the son of the Chicago Bulls great also handed out seven assists. Stute did all of his scoring from behind the arc, making six of his 10 attempts from 3-point range. Rodney Chatman scored all 12 of his points in the second half, when Chatman, Pippen and Stute combined for 39 of Vanderbilt's 54 points and the Commodores shot 50%. Jordan Wright added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Jaden Shackelford had six 3-pointers and 21 points and Jahvon Quinerly added 13 points for Alabama before both fouled out late. They were the only scorers in double figures for the Tide.
Vanderbilt shot only 26% in the first half and trailed 38-28 at the break, then fell behind by 15 with 14 minutes remaining.
That's when Stute hit consecutive 3-pointers to start a 12-0 run. The Commodores caught the Tide with a 6-0 spurt with nine minutes to go and took the lead for good with 3:19 left after Chatman scored nine straight points, including two 3s.
A steal that turned into a transition dunk for Pippen with 22 seconds left made it a seven-point edge, and two free throws by Wright after a Tide 3-pointer ensured the win.
Two players from each team fouled out, with the teams combining for 79 free throws. Vanderbilt made 31 of 45 shots at the line; Alabama was 20-for-34. The Tide had 18 turnovers and were outscored 16-7 off miscues, offseting their plus-18 advantage in rebounds.
Texas A&M 83, Florida 80
Hassan Diarra drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 0.4 second left in overtime, lifting eighth-seeded Texas A&M over ninth-seeded Florida in the second round's opening matchup.
After finding his driving lane cut off, Tyrece Radford passed the ball out to Diarra, who dribbled once to his left before firing a shot that rattled through the rim. Diarra had a success rate of 17.9% from 3-point range during the SEC regular season.
"Coach called a play, he drew up a play, and he told Boots (Radford) they were going to tag off me and I would be open," Diarra said. "I was thinking if I shoot the ball, I know it was going to go in. I got the ball, took one dribble and shot it. It went in. Thank God for it."
That capped a wild finish to a game Florida led a total of 39 seconds, all in overtime, after closing regulation with a 21-8 run over the last five minutes.
Henry Coleman III had 22 points and eight rebounds to lead the Aggies (21-11) to their fifth straight win. Diarra and Quenton Jackson added 14 points each, Radford had 13 and Wade Taylor IV scored 10.
The Aggies advance to play fourth-ranked Auburn (27-4), the top seed after winning the SEC regular-season title outright, in Friday's first quarterfinal at noon.
Kowacie Reeves scored 21 points and Niels Lane 16, career highs for both reserves, to spark the Gators (19-13). Lane also had a game-high nine rebounds, while Phlandrous Fleming Jr. added 17 points and Colin Castleton chipped in 15.
Diarra's long 3 as the shot clock expired with 5:41 to play in the second half gave the Aggies a 62-49 lead, but they wouldn't make another basket in regulation, missing just twice because they had four turnovers and went 8-of-9 from the foul line. Diarra, who was 3-of-4 on 3-point tries against Florida, was 7-of-39 in 18 SEC regular-season games.
Reeves was fouled on a 3 from the right wing with 36.6 seconds to go, and his four-point play made it 68-67. After two free throws by Taylor, Reeves hit a contested 3 from the left corner with 17.5 seconds on the clock to tie it at 70. Radford's contested floater in the lane bounced off the rim as time expired in regulation.
Reeves opened the scoring in overtime with a three-point play, but Radford quickly responded with a 3. It wasn't until Fleming had a three-point play, followed by a difficult stepback jumper from the foul line with 48.6 seconds to go, that the Gators led again, 80-78.
Florida forced a miss on the Aggies' possession but deflected the rebound out of bounds. On the inbounds pass, Fleming and Radford collided, with the ball going out of bounds to the Gators. On review, Fleming was called for a foul and Radford tied it with 38.4 seconds to go.
Fleming tried a stepback 3 from the top of the key, but the ball stuck on the rim and the Aggies had possession with 17.7 to play.
LSU 76, Missouri 68
Tari Eason led five LSU scorers in double figures as the tournament's No. 5 seed used a big start to roll over 12th-seeded Missouri.
Darius Days and Xavier Pinson combined for LSU's first 14 points and a 10-point lead, and when Eason hit a jumper with less than five minutes to go in the first half, LSU was up 34-9.
Days had 10 of his 16 points in the first half, when Pinson had all 11 of his. Efton Reid added 12 points and Eric Gaines had 11 for LSU (22-10), which next faces fourth-seeded and 15th-ranked Arkansas (24-7).
DaJuan Gordon scored 19 points, Trevon Brazile had 15 — plus eight rebounds — and Javon Pickett 14 for Missouri (12-21), which didn't get within double figures until scoring the last basket of the game, the completion of a 9-0 run.
LSU led 39-23 after a first half in which it shot 50% and turned 15 Missouri turnovers into 21 points. Missouri finished with 24 turnovers that were turned into 29 points. LSU shot 56% for the game but had 11 turnovers in the second half.
Mississippi State 73, South Carolina 51
Tolu Smith scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and 10th-seeded Mississippi State dominated the second half while pulling away from seventh-seeded South Carolina.
Smith was 8-of-14 shooting while collecting his fourth double-double this season for the Bulldogs (18-14), who move on to meet second-seeded and ninth-ranked Tennessee (23-7).
Iverson Molinar added 19 points despite shooting 6-of-20 from the floor, Shakeel Moore added 12 points and five assists and Andersson Garcia had 12 rebounds.
Erik Stevenson scored 18 points, including four 3-pointers on 11 attempts, and had five assists for the Gamecocks (18-13), who made only four field goals in the second half. Devin Carter added 10 points. James Reese V, who came in averaging nearly 11 points per game, was held to two free throws.
The Bulldogs, who were 2-of-37 from behind the arc in their previous four games, were 3-of-11 against South Carolina but attacked inside to outscore South Carolina 42-16 in the paint. The Bulldogs also made 20 of 27 free throws; South Carolina was 11-of-19 at the line
The Gamecocks finished at 28% shooting, going 4-for-31 in a second half in which they were outscored 37-17.