Their latest win was much too easy.
Tonny Trocha-Morales scored 13 points as Texas A&M trounced LSU and freshman star Ben Simmons 71-38 on Saturday to reach the Aggies’ first conference tournament championship game since 1994.
“You don’t envision beating someone by 40 in the semifinal game before you try and go to the championship, but that’s just how the game played out,” Aggies senior guard Alex Caruso said. “They kind of withered down as we got stronger.”
Texas A&M (26-7) will play for the Southeastern Conference Tournament title on Sunday after sharing the regular-season crown with No. 16 Kentucky. It will face either the Wildcats or Georgia.
Texas A&M, winners of eight straight, hadn’t reached a conference tourney championship since losing to Texas 22 years ago in the Southwest Conference.
The Aggies announced a new five-year deal with coach Billy Kennedy before tipoff, and then they proved he deserved it by routing the last team to beat them back on Feb. 13.
“Obviously, I’m thrilled with the effort that we played with, especially on the defensive end,” Kennedy said.
Jalen Jones added 12 points and Admon Gilder had 10. The Aggies not only held LSU to a season-low in both points and made field goals (13) but also the fewest points scored by a team in any major conference this season, according to STATS LLC.
Simmons finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds for fourth-seeded LSU (19-14). The Tigers were the first team held below 40 in this tournament since Mississippi State in 1985.
“Very disappointing for us to find and pick the day to have a bad shooting day and not get anything to go,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said.
The Tigers beat the Aggies 76-71 in Baton Rouge but looked nothing like that team in this game.
The Aggies missed five of their first six shots before Trocha-Morelos hit a 3-pointer that woke them up with 13:29 left, starting them on what wound up a crushing 32-5 run. Gilder punctuated the performance by beating the buzzer with a 3-pointer for a 35-13 lead at intermission.
LSU led 8-3 in the opening minutes and had a 13-5 edge in rebounding when Tocha-Morelos hit his second 3 to tie it up at 9 with 11:40 left in the half. That’s when the Tigers’ mistakes caught up with them and LSU fell apart with a simply ghastly performance. The Tigers wound up with more turnovers (11) than made shots (five) by halftime as they missed their final 14 shots.
Tim Quarterman hit two 3s within the first 2 minutes of the second half to pull the score to 39-19. The Tigers never got any closer. Texas A&M spent much of the second half throwing down big dunks that had the Aggies jumping up and down on the bench. A free throw by Kyle Dobbins off a technical on Simmons gave the Aggies their biggest lead at 68-28 with 3:05 left.
LSU: Boston College’s 40 points scored Jan. 13 at Syracuse had been the fewest points scored by a team in the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12 or SEC until this game. The Tigers’ previous season low was 57, when they lost to the Aggies on Jan. 19 in College Station. This was their worst game since scoring 38 on Jan. 27, 2010 against Alabama. … Their previous low for made shots was 19 on Nov. 30. They wound up 13 of 63.
Texas A&M: The Aggies will be playing in their sixth conference tournament final and first in their fourth trip to this tournament. They haven’t won a tournament title since beating Baylor in 1987. … The Aggies outrebounded LSU 52-40 and outscored the Tigers’ bench 42-10.
NIT INSTEAD OF NCAA
Simmons is touted as the likely No. 1 draft in the NBA draft in June. His next game likely will be in the NIT if LSU gets an invitation. Asked if he expected such a season as a freshman, Simmons said he just wanted to play well and try to help LSU win. “Whatever the future holds, I want to play with this team as long as I can,” Simmons said.
LSU: Hoping for an NIT invitation.
Texas A&M: SEC Tournament final Sunday against Kentucky or Georgia.