DULUTH, Ga. — After Kentucky and Texas A&M met the first time this season, Aggies Coach Gary Blair lamented the fact that such a great game wasn't seen nationally.
The second time they played it was, but it was the undercard of a Big Monday game between two teams ranked in the top three.
But there will be plenty of eyes on Sunday's Southeastern Conference championship game at Gwinnett Center, which is as it should be, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said.
"It should be the type of game this tournament is deserving of: Two really good teams," he said. "You should have to play very good basketball to win this tournament championship. You'll have to play well tomorrow to win."
The No. 19 Aggies will get a third shot to top No. 7 Kentucky this season. UK won the previous two meetings 65-62 in Lexington, having to fight from nine points down, and then again 70-66 in College Station on Feb. 18. In that second game, UK had a 14-point lead and then had to fight off a huge Aggies rally to win it.
"We know what Texas A&M is capable of. They're a very great team and the times we've played them, they showed how good they were. We just happened to get some victories," senior guard A'dia Mathies said.
Like Kentucky, the Aggies are deep and aggressive defensively. It should be a battle of wills.
"They're going to come out with a lot of fire, losing to us twice already," UK forward Samarie Walker said. "But we've done it twice before and there's no telling what's going to happen in this next game, but we want to win it."
And even though Texas A&M is new to the SEC, they're not new to big games. The team is playing in its sixth straight conference championship game.
The Cats will have loads of talent to contend with, but none bigger than 6-foot-5 Kelsey Bone, who averages 17 points and 9.5 rebounds a game.
"I think she's the best post player in the nation and she's hard to guard," Blair said. "When her mind is set, she's scoring easy, she's awfully tough to defend."
She will be a challenge, but she won't be the only one.
"They have fight in them," Walker continued. "They have a lot of energy, a lot of players who can come off the bench."
Kentucky will be playing for its first SEC Tournament championship since 1982 and only its second in school history.
'A special plea'
The Gwinnett Center might be a little more empty on Sunday night with Tennessee and its huge collection of fans gone, but Blair said he hoped the Lady Vols faithful would stay and root for the SEC newcomer Aggies.
"I'd like to put in a special plea for Tennessee fans," he said. "If I'm not mistaken, Kentucky borders Tennessee. ... You're not supposed to like somebody you're bordering. So we're the new kid on the block. I want to see that Tennessee orange there pull us through."
Mathies sets new mark
Mathies knows she's never going to pass Valerie Still for career scoring leader, but the senior guard did like the idea of being atop at least one record in UK's book.
She got that wish on Saturday night when her two steals in the second half gave her 310 for her career and helped her steal away that top spot from Stacey Reed.
"Just to have an accolade like that is crazy. You come in here and you wouldn't imagine you could break a record like that and to do it and then have more games left, is big."
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com