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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Awaiting its fate

A&M falls to Florida 95-90 in the SEC Tournament semifinals, putting its postseason in the hands of the Selection Committee
Photo by Ishika Samant
Texas A&M Aggies guard Jace Carter (0) fights for the ball during Texas A&M’s game against Florida on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, at Reed Arena. (Ishika Samant/The Battalion)

As Texas A&M men’s basketball entered the halftime break with an 8-point lead over the Florida Gators in the SEC Tournament semifinals, coach Buzz Williams had a question for ESPN’s Marty Smith during his halftime interview.

“Do you have any eligibility left?” Williams said. “… We just set the SEC Tournament record for fouls in a half. I will check and see if we have any extra uniforms, I’ll call compliance and see if we can get you eligible right away on a waiver.”

The Aggies could have used the added depth as they fell 95-90 to Florida in a game the Maroon and White led by as much as 18 — and one dominated by whistles.

A true foul-fest

A total of 49 fouls were called during the game. All but two of the combined 10 starters finished with at least three fouls. Two Aggies — senior forward Andersson Garcia and junior guard Manny Obaseki — fouled out, while leading scorer junior G Wade Taylor IV finished with four fouls.

That didn’t mean the game was won or lost from the free throw line. A&M shot 81% from the charity stripe, while the Gators had shot a respectable 77% in the same category.

A&M held its largest lead of the day at the 5:20 mark in the first half after Taylor drained a 3. Ten seconds later, sophomore F Solomon Washington picked up a foul and added another less than a minute after that.

With Washington and Garcia both in foul trouble in the first half, both were forced to the bench until the second period — allowing Florida to begin to slowly claw its way back to a victory.

While Florida ended the game in foul trouble of its own, the Gators relied on their depth: Florida’s bench contributed 29 points to the Aggies’ 10.

Aberdeen’s breakout

Florida sophomore G Denzel Aberdeen entered the game averaging just 2.6 points per game. Against the Aggies, he put up 20.

While Taylor led all scorers with 30 points, the majority of that came from his six 3-pointers on 12 attempts, as the Aggies shot 38% from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Aberdeen shot four-of-five from deep and was a major reason why the Gators shot a stellar 54% from 3 for the game.

That disparity was the difference maker. It wasn’t the rebounding battle, despite both teams entering the day as the top two teams in the country in offensive rebounds. A&M won the battle on the glass 42-32, out-offensive-rebounded the Gators 16-9 and had 22 second-chance points to Florida’s 8.

But when a trio of Florida guards in Aberdeen, junior G Walter Clayton Jr. and junior G Will Richard combine to score 55 points and hit 13 3-pointers, a close rebounding margin isn’t enough.

Selection Sunday stress

As has become a familiar pattern over the past three years, A&M will hope that its performance in the SEC Tournament will be enough to help its case in the eyes of the Selection Committee.

But there are positives for Aggie fans to focus on. Even with the loss to Florida, A&M did wake up to find a welcome boost to its resume thanks to the overnight update of the NCAA’s NET rankings.

The Aggies’ win over Kentucky gave the Maroon and White another Quad 1 win, but the bonus came from Florida’s win over Alabama in the quarterfinals. That pushed the Gators to 28 in the NET, meaning the Aggies’ home win over Florida reverted back to Quad 1 status — and a silver lining of the loss to the Gators means it will stay that way.

Is that — along with A&M’s 21st-ranked non-conference strength of schedule — enough to secure A&M’s spot in the Big Dance? ESPN’s Joe Lunardi seems to think so, as he had the Aggies at the top of the “Last Four Byes” before the buzzer sounded against Florida.

For now, all the Aggies can do is count down the hours until Selection Sunday and await their fate.

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About the Contributor
Ian Curtis
Ian Curtis, Sports Reporter
Ian Curtis is a journalism freshman from College Station, Texas. Ian has written about football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, hockey, gymnastics, volleyball and more for The Battalion. Ian's work has also appeared in The Bryan-College Station Eagle and over the airwaves on WTAW and 
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