Tyler Ulis scored a career-high 30 points, dished out five assists and committed only one turnover while playing all 45 minutes of Kentucky's hard-fought 82-77 overtime win over Texas A&M at Bridgestone Arena.
The 5-foot-9 sophomore point guard hit one of the biggest shots of the day, a 3-pointer at the 3:43 mark of overtime to give the Wildcats early momentum in the extra period. But one could point to any number of plays he made along the way that led to tourney MVP honors.
"His heart and his energy that he plays with is just ridiculous," UK coach John Calipari said. "We feed off it."
"He's amazing," teammate Jamal Murray said of Ulis. "He's done that all year for us. What else can you say about the guy?"
The 3-pointer was once again good to Kentucky (26-8), which hit 10 of 24 from beyond the arc. In addition to Ulis' big shot in overtime, the Cats also got back-to-back treys from Derek Willis and Murray to put the game away and help UK avenge a regular season loss to the Aggies that led to the two schools sharing the league championship.
Kentucky made 32 of 67 shots (48 percent) from 3-point range in its weekend run past Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M.
The Cats also got 10 points, five rebounds and six assists from freshman guard Isaiah Briscoe, 10 points from senior forward Alex Poythress and 10 points from Willis off the bench.
Texas A&M (26-8) got a game-high 32 points from Danuel House and 15 points and nine rebounds from fellow wing Jalen Jones, but the No. 17 Aggies shot just 42 percent as a team and missed 17 of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc.
Still, A&M coach Billy Kennedy likes where his team is entering the NCAA Tournament.
"Everybody was talking about Kentucky is a Final Four team, the way they've been playing," he said. "And I said, if they're a Final Four team, then we just showed that we're a Final Four team."
In this AW "Rapid Recap" feature, we touch on some quick-hitters from the Cats' thrilling win over the Aggies...
With the game knotted at 75 with 1:55 remaining in overtime, Ulis found Derek Willis for a 3-pointer out of the right corner to help the Cats regain the lead. House missed a potential tying 3-pointer on the A&M end with 46 seconds left, and Ulis grabbed the defensive rebound. Kentucky elected to run as much time as possible off the clock before Murray beat the buzzer with a long trey from the left wing to make it 81-75 with 15 seconds left and essentially seal the victory.
Ulis continued to add to his national player of the year candidacy with 72 points, 15 assists, five steals and only four turnovers in three games this weekend. He made nine of 14 shots from 3-point range and 19 of 21 at the free-throw line.
BY THE NUMBERS:
1st - Overtime win for UK this season after falling at Kansas and Texas A&M earlier this season.
3rd - Consecutive overtime game between the Cats and Aggies, and the fourth in the last five.
4th - SEC Tournament title for UK under Calipari.
72 - Ulis' scoring total at the SEC tourney was the most by a UK player in the event in the last 20 years.
110 - Three-pointers for Murray this season, an SEC freshman record, tied for second-most ever in the NCAA. NBA star Steph Curry holds the mark with 122.
127-25 - Kentucky's all-time record in the SEC tourney.
"He played three straight days about 40 minutes, and he could probably play another game right now. He's a tremendous athlete... When someone doesn't get tired, they can play at their best, and his best is really elite." -- A&M guard Alex Caruso on UK's Tyler Ulis.
Kentucky awaits its seeding in tonight's NCAA Tournament selection show.