Nashville, Tenn. --- No. 2 seed Texas A&M (25-8, 15-3 SEC) advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship Game with an 87-75 win over No. 6 seed Vanderbilt in the semifinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena.
The Aggies stayed consistent and rode out a 24-point halftime lead to outlast the Commodores' second-half surge.
Wade Taylor IV racked up 25 points off 8-of-13 shooting with four 3-pointers and four assists to lead the Aggies' highest-scoring SEC Tournament performance since 1994.
Tyrece Radford tallied 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting with two 3-pointers, four rebounds and five assists. Julius Marble contributed 13 points and four boards while Dexter Dennis scored nine and grabbed seven off the glass.
Despite a slow start, four of the Commodores found themselves in double-digit scoring.
Tyrin Lawrence led the second-half surge, scoring 16 of his 18 points in the latter half of the game off 8-of-13 shooting. Jordan Wright recorded 15 of his 17 points and Ezra Manjon marked 12 of 16 during Vanderbilt's second-half shooting frenzy. Colin Smith scored nine of their 25 points in the first half from behind the arc, totaling 15 on the day with two more threes in the second.
Wright led off the glass with seven boards and Quentin Millora-Brown followed with five. Manjon racked up seven assists as Wright was just behind with six.
With his standout performance, Wright marked his second game this season with over 15 points, five rebounds and five assists. The last Vanderbilt player to record those stats in an SEC Tournament game was Jermaine Beal in 2010.
Texas A&M set the tone with a seven-point surge to with a 12-3 run in the opening minutes featuring 3-pointers by both Radford and Taylor IV. Millora-Brown slammed one down in an attempt to break up the Aggies' momentum, but they responded with a dunk of their own as part of short six-point spurt to create a 14-point lead, 19-5, with 12:04 remaining in the half.
After briefly exchanging baskets, the Aggies extended their lead even further, 42-16, with a 10-2 run capped by two Taylor IV 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions with 2:43 to go in the first period.
With just over a minute left until the half, Henry Coleman III snatched the ball from Jordan, sending it down the court to Solomon Washington as he flew to the rim on the fast break, slamming it down for their largest lead of the first half at 26 points, 47-21.
The Dores didn't give in as Smith drilled one from afar and Millora-Brown made one of his two shots from the free throw line, but Dennis closed out the first half with a layup to set up a 49-25 advantage at the halftime buzzer.
Texas A&M shot 69% (20-of-29) from the field in the first half, its second-highest first-half field goal percentage in the past 10 seasons. The 24-point halftime lead matched its second largest against an SEC opponent since joining the conference in 2012. The Aggies' seven 3-pointers tied their most in a half this season as Taylor IV drained three and Radford drilled two of the seven.
The Commodores turned the ball over 12 times in the first half after only having 11 turnovers in its regular-season game against Texas A&M. They also found themselves falling behind off the glass, 15-7, at the half. Vanderbilt struggled to find the net in the first period, shooting 24% from the field (10-of-24).
But Vanderbilt came into the second half fired up and ready to fight. A few points by Texas A&M would set its largest lead of the game with a 27-point advantage, 52-25, but it wouldn't last long.
The Commodores pressed on with a 7-0 run as a 3-point jump shot by Smith sent the crowd to their feet and solidified his career-high scoring performance. Vanderbilt fans were riled up as Wright hit a three and dropped in a layup on back-to-back possessions before stealing the ball away and making a pair of free throws to close the gap, 58-46, with 13:27 left to play.
But Taylor IV proved difficult to slow down, splashing his fourth 3-pointer of the contest and a pair of free throws before Marble slammed one down to set the Aggies apart by 19, 67-48, midway through the second half.
Texas A&M reached a 23-point differential before Vanderbilt began to chip away again with a 16-4 run powered by Lawrence's nine, bringing it within 11 at the 2:22 mark, 80-69.
However, the Commodores ran out of time before they could complete the comeback as the Aggies' significant halftime lead and explosive offensive performance secured the win and a chance at the SEC Tournament title.
Texas A&M will face 1-seed Alabama in the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament Championship Game on Sunday at 1pm ET -- the game will be aired on ESPN.
Vanderbilt (20-14, 11-7 SEC) is eliminated from the tournament. The Commodores await news of when and where they will play in the postseason, but are now projected to be included in the NCAA Tournament.