ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 29 points to lead Kentucky to its fourth straight Southeastern Conference Tournament championship with a 77-72 win over No. 13 Tennessee on Sunday.
The championship is the 31st in tournament history for the fourth-seeded Wildcats (24-10), who have won seven of their past eight games since a four-game losing streak last month. It’s also their first victory in three tries this season against the No. 2 seed Volunteers (25-8).
Gilgeous-Alexander was 10 of 16 from the field and added seven rebounds and a pair of steals, and he hit the clinching free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining. His 29 points were one-off his career high of 30. Kevin Knox added 18 points and Quade Green had 10 for the Wildcats.
Admiral Schofield had 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead Tennessee, which was attempting to win its first tournament championship since 1979. Grant Williams added 15 points, while Jordan Bone had 12 and Lamonte Turner had 10.
A night after hitting 11 of their first 12 shots and 76 percent (19 of 25) in the first half of a semifinal win over Arkansas, the Volunteers didn’t fare nearly as well early on Sunday. They made only 5 of their first 25 shots and fell behind 33-16 midway through the first half, much to the delight of overwhelming Kentucky crowd inside the Scottrade Center.
Schofield, however, responded by scoring Tennessee’s final 13 points of the half, capping a 15-3 run that pulled the Volunteers within 36-31 at halftime.
Kentucky: The championship game appearance was the fifth straight for the Wildcats and their eighth in nine seasons under coach John Calipari. Kentucky is 22-3 in the SEC Tournament under Calipari.
Tennessee: The Volunteers were picked to finish 13th in the SEC during the preseason, but they finished as the co-regular-season champions with No. 16 Auburn. Regardless of Sunday’s result, Tennessee already had a spot in next week’s NCAA Tournament. The trip will make Tennessee the fourth school third-year coach Rick Barnes has taken to the tournament, joining Providence, Clemson and Texas.
Both teams wait on their NCAA Tournament opponents.