TAMPA, Fla. -- Santiago Vescovi scored 17 points and Josiah-Jordan James had 16 points and 10 rebounds to help ninth-ranked Tennessee beat Texas A&M 65-50 on Sunday and claim its first men's SEC basketball tournament title in 43 years.
The second-seeded Volunteers (26-7) never trailed, rattling off the first 14 points of the afternoon and winning for the 12th time in 13 games following a one-point loss at Texas in late January.
Auburn and Kentucky entered the SEC tournament ranked in the top five and Arkansas was as hot as any team in the country down the stretch, but Tennessee has emerged as the top team in the league after beating each of those other rivals in the past few weeks.
Kennedy Chandler had 14 points and seven assists for Tennessee, which recorded assists on 19 of 22 baskets, including the first 10 the Vols made after halftime.
Playing its fourth game in four days, Texas A&M (23-12) started slowly and never recovered.
The Aggies missed their first eight shots -- seven of them 3-point attempts -- while Tennessee began the game with Chandler making a 3-pointer and James delivering a 3-point play then hitting a shot from behind the arc for a quick 9-0 lead.
It was 14-0 before Henry Coleman III finally scored for Texas A&M, which never trimmed the deficit to fewer than five the rest of the way. The Aggies missed all nine of their 3-point attempts in the opening half while shooting 27% overall (6-of-22) from the field.
Tennessee also was outstanding defending the 3-point line in Saturday's 69-62 semifinal victory over fifth-ranked Kentucky, which finished 2-of-20 from beyond the arc. Since yielding 80 points in a 10-point victory over Texas A&M in Knoxville on Feb. 1, the Vols have held 10 of 12 SEC opponents under 65.
The closest Texas A&M got after the slow start was 34-29 after Tyrece Radford's 3-pointer early in the second half. Chandler answered with a 3 and Vescovi followed with a another to finish a 9-0 burst that rebuilt the lead to 14.
Chandler, falling out of bounds, shoveled a nifty underhand pass to James in the corner, and the Tennessee forward sank a 3-pointer that gave the Vols, who led by as many as 18, their biggest lead of the day.
Radford led Texas A&M, which beat Florida, fourth-ranked Auburn and No. 15 Arkansas to reach its first SEC tournament final, with 13 points. Coleman finished with 12 points and seven rebounds for the Aggies, who likely played their way into the NCAA tournament with three wins in Tampa.
Tennessee won the conference for the first time since 1979. The Vols were in the final for the third time in five years after losing to Kentucky in 2018 and Auburn in 2019.