Texas A&M tops Mississippi, but needs help to have shot at SEC title

Photo of Brent Zwerneman

Texas A&M did its part to set up a showdown for the Southeastern Conference title. Now the Aggies need the Auburn Tigers to do theirs.

A&M defeated Mississippi 69-61 on Tuesday night in The Pavilion in Oxford, Miss., before a sparse crowd and an interim opposing coach.

The scene will be quite different Saturday morning in A&M’s Reed Arena, when the No. 24 Aggies host No. 2 Alabama. Should Auburn upset the Crimson Tide on Wednesday night in Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Aggies (22-8, 14-3) will try and force a tie for the SEC regular-season title.

With a victory over Alabama in that situation (following a Crimson Tide loss to Auburn), the Aggies also would own the league tiebreaker and the No. 1 seed in  the SEC tournament next week in Nashville, Tenn.

A&M has won its most league games since joining the SEC in the summer of 2012. The Aggies’ best prior finish in SEC play was 13-5 with a team that advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Tuesday’s outcome was in doubt with less than two minutes remaining until A&M forward Andersson Garcia collected a steal and a slam dunk with 1:23 remaining to shove the Aggies to an insurmountable 65-59 lead.

Meantime A&M guard Dexter Dennis did not play against the Rebels with a sprained left knee. His status against Alabama on Saturday is to be determined. The Aggies also welcomed back guard Manny Obaseki to the lineup after he had missed the previous 15 games with a broken pinkie finger. Obaseki finished with four points, a rebound and an assist in 11 minutes of play.

The Aggies are no doubt bound for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years and first time under fourth-year coach Buzz Williams after barely missing on the NCAA postseason a year ago.

For their part, the Rebels (11-19, 3-14) are in search of a coach following the dismissal of Kermit Davis Jr. last week. Mississippi closes out its regular season Saturday at Missouri. The Aggies prevailed despite a season-high 26 points by guard Matthew Murrell, who made 8-of-11 of his 3-point attempts.

The Aggies were led by guard Tyrece Radford’s 13 points, and A&M held an overwhelming advantage in points in the paint (36-14).

Brent Zwerneman reported from College Station.