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Conference tournament round up: UConn, UK, MSU take titles

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SEC: Kentucky 82, Texas A&M 77 OT

On Sunday the Kentucky Wildcats were playing for their 29th SEC championship. The Texas A&M Aggies were playing for their first.

The Aggies must wait at least another year to claim their first tournament title because Kentucky took an 82-77 victory in overtime in Nashville, Tennessee. After scoring a career-high 30 points, Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

Kentucky trailed by four at halftime, but Ulis and backcourt partner Jamal Murray led the Wildcats on a second half surge that saw them take a 67-60 lead with 4:02 remaining. Texas A&M responded with an 11-4 run, tying the game at 71 on a Danuel House jumper in the lane with 22 seconds remaining.

In the overtime, Ulis and Murray made huge 3-pointers to put Kentucky on top to stay. Murray added 17 points to the Kentucky offense.

House led all scorers with 32 points. Jalen Jones added 15.

Both teams head into the NCAA tournament with 26-8 records.

Big 10: Michigan State 66, Purdue 62

The Purdue Boilermakers gave No. 2 ranked Michigan State all they wanted, but the Spartans made all of the plays at the end to win the Big 10 Championship. Led by national player of the year candidate Denzel Valentine, the Spartans held off the No. 13 Boilermakers 66-62 in Indianapolis to earn the conference’s automatic tournament bid.

Michigan State held a 36-26 lead at halftime, and led by 11 in the second half before Purdue went on a 9-2 run to close within 48-44. Each team had mini-surges the rest of the way with the Boilermakers having a chance to take the lead with less than three minutes remaining, but Raphael Davis missed a jumper.

Valentine made key shots and, just as important, key passes to set up teammates down the stretch. The play of the game came with 12 seconds remaining when Matt Costello blocked Johnny Hill’s layup attempt to preserve a 2-point lead.

Valentine nearly had a triple double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He was the only Spartan in double figures.

Purdue was led by Vince Edwards with 19 points. Caleb Swanigan and A.J. Hammons had 11.

Michigan State heads into the NCAA Tournament with a 29-5 record while Purdue fell to 26-8.

American: Connecticut 72, Memphis 58

If you are on the bubble, one way to make sure your team makes the NCAA Tournament is win your conference tournament. The Connecticut Huskies were thought to be on the bubble as the American Conference Tournament began, but no longer.

UConn jumped on the Memphis Tigers early in the championship game at the Amway Center in Orlando and cruised to a 72-58 victory. Daniel Hamilton paced the Huskies with 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Sterling Gibbs had 13.

The Huskies jumped out to a 32-19 halftime lead. After extending the margin to 37-21 early in the second half, the Tigers went on a 13-1 run to cut the lead to 38-34 with 14:20 remaining.

Just as quickly, Connecticut regained control, pushing the lead to 57-40 with 6:37 left. The Tigers never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

Dedric Lawson led Memphis with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Ricky Tarrant, Jr. had 11.

Connecticut moves on the NCAA Tournament with a 24-10 record and playing their best basketball of the year. Memphis (19-15) is NIT bound.

Other tournament finals:

Atlantic 10: St. Josephs 87, Virginia Commonwealth 74

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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