FINAL: 72-71, SDSU: CAN YOU DIG IT???!!! LAMONT BUTLER HITS THE FINAL SHOT AT THE BUZZER TO SEND SAN DIEGO STATE TO THE NATIONAL TITLE GAME!
Phewww... Jim Nantz pointed out in the broadcast that SDSU's 14-point comeback was the third largest in a National Semifinal game. This is storybook stuff. Now it's time for the boys to bring it home.
Before the final shot, FAU had a chance to extend their lead, but Johnell Davis missed the jumper as Arop got a piece of it. Dutcher elected not to call timeout, putting his trust in his players. Lamont Butler went downhill, found his spot towards the baseline, and released. Bang.
What an amazing game.
Look at this point of view of the shot from the stands:
Check out the aftermath in Viejas Arena following the dramatic finish:
And fan reaction in Houston:
Below, you'll find live updates and analysis in a blog that was written as the game unfolded.
17.5 seconds remaining, score: 71-70, FAU: May called timeout after advancing past halfcourt. SDSU brought pressure on the inbounder, forcing FAU to call its final timeout. 11 ticks left on shot clock.
Dutcher has one last timeout in his pocket.
36.2 seconds remaining, score: 71-70, FAU: The Owls went back to their leading man, Alijah Martin, who scored on a tough reverse layup. He has 26 points today, with 19 coming in the second half. Dutcher calls timeout as the Aztecs get it past halfcourt.
Off the inbound, SDSU found a cutting LeDee, who nailed a bucket from the elbow. It doesn't get any closer than this. Dutcher quickly called another timeout.
FAU inbounded it after electing to sub in a small ball line up. After getting across halfcourt, Dusty May called timeout with 17.5 seconds left.
LEDEE. Houston's very own, embracing the moment.— ABC 10News San Diego (@10News) April 2, 2023
57.4 seconds remaining, score: 69-68, FAU: With a chance to take the lead, Trammell drove inside, but he was called for a travel as he tried to avoid the FAU defenders closing in on him. Bradley fouled Davis on the other end, and he made both shots to extend FAU's lead. The Conference USA Sixth Man of the Year is perfect from the free throw line today.
Houston native LeDee isn't shying away from the moment, as he made a jumper to cut the Owls' lead to one.
FAU called timeout after bringing the ball up past mid court.
2:05 remaining, score: 67-66, FAU: Both teams are in the double bonus for the rest of the way. Parrish was at the line with a chance to tie the game up after a string of turnovers and fouls by both squads. He missed both foul shots. SDSU is 12/20 from the charity stripe on the day.
After a solid defensive possession by SDSU, Bradley made a quick move the rim, drawing a foul, but failing to hit the bucket. He went 1/2 from the line, and SDSU brought pressure off the made bucket.
3:14 remaining, score: 67-65, FAU: LeDee made the first foul shot and missed the second, leading to a Bradley offensive board. SDSU couldn't convert; however, FAU turned it over as Johnell Davis tried to get a fast break bucket by throwing it down the court to a teammate. Bradley missed a three pointer on the next SDSU possession, and the Aztecs managed to clean up the offensive glass again.
Arop nearly tore the rim off the basket, but Goldin fouled him at the rim. He made the first, but missed the second, leading to another SDSU offensive rebound. SDSU is 12-18 from the line so far today.
In the last two minutes, the Aztecs had eight offensive rebounds. SDSU needs to stay gritty and physical to come out with the W. Arop managed to tie the game up with a nice turn around jumper before the shot clock timed out; however, FAU responded with a quick bucket of their own.
Bradley missed a three before the under 4-minutes TV timeout.
Everyone... take a deep breath. It is getting REALLY tense, and this game will likely come down to the very last second.
5:40 remaining, score: 65-61, FAU: LeDee was fouled as the shot clock expired, but he missed both shots from the line. SDSU managed to get an offensive board and was fouled again, this time by Martin.
LeDee missed another jumper, but FAU missed a layup on the other end. LeDee was involved on that play too, forcing a jump ball, but the Owls had the possession arrow in their favor.
The physicality of this match up is definitely heating up in the final minutes here. Mensah was called for his fourth foul, so Dutcher put him on the bench for now.
Goldin missed foul shots for the Owls, but it led to another jump ball, this time allowing SDSU to get the possession. The direction that arrow points will be crucial in the final seconds of this game.
LeDee drew another foul on the offensive end after winning an offensive rebound off a Parrish miss.
7:15 remaining, score: 65-60, FAU: Matt Bradley is back! The Aztecs' leading scorer has 19 points on the day after nailing a contested three-pointer and hitting some free throws after an aggressive drive to the rim. He needs to continue taking over for SDSU to have a chance in this one.
Alijah Martin threw down a solid dunk after the free throws.
LeDee contributed to the Aztec run as well, nailing some nice shots in the post. Martin made another three-pointer for FAU. LeDee couldn't make a third shot in a row, and FAU missed a three on the other end.
We're at the under-8 TV timeout. This one feels like it's going to come down to the wire.
Update on stats: Both teams are shooting around 45% from the field. The Owls are 9/21 from three on the day, while SDSU is 9/16 from deep. Martin is leading all scorers on the day with 24 points on 6/11 shooting.
Bradley = back. Can't have him disappear again for the Aztecs.— ABC 10News San Diego (@10News) April 1, 2023
11:11 remaining, score: 58-51, FAU: The Aztecs dug out of their largest deficit of the NCAA Tournament thanks to a three pointer by Parrish and Bradley getting his first points since early on in the first half. Parrish made another three off of a Bradley assist after a jumper by Davis.
Keshad Johnson was called for a quick reach-in foul right before the TV timeout, putting the Owls in the bonus with more than 10 minutes left to play. On the flip side, FAU has only been called for three fouls so far this half.
Dutcher told CBS' Tracy Wolfson his team needs to dial up the pressure.
14:38 remaining, score: 54-40, FAU: LeDee missed a jumper out of the TV timeout. Parrish was then called for a foul as FAU failed to back him down for a bucket inside. The refs took a longer look at the play, and they ruled there was a deadball contact technical foul on SDSU, leading to two made free throws and the ball for the Owls.
On the bonus possession for the Owls, Mensah fouled Martin on a three-point attempt. Martin had already made the techncial foul shots, so it was no surprise when he nailed the remaining shots from the charity stripe.
The Aztecs are currently facing their largest deficit of the tournament. SDSU can't afford to shoot themselves in the foot again.
Sports director Ben Higgins believes the officiating is skewed in this one. My take? The tech was soft — but Mensah needs to be more careful when closing out on the three point shots, even though that was an emphasis for the halftime adjustments.
Tough that such an acting job leads to five free throws for FAU.— Ben Higgins (@BenHigginsSD) April 1, 2023
15:56 remaining, score: 49-40, FAU: Following a reach-in foul by Mensah, Martin drained a three-pointer off a Greenlee assist. Trammell hit a mid-range shot on the ensuing possession. A foul by Bradley led to one foul shot being made by FAU's 7-footer, Goldin.
SDSU missed shots on their next two possessions, but Bradley managed to steal the ball from Martin before the TV timeout.
The Aztecs really need to find their offensive rhythm.
18:26 remaining, score: 43-38, FAU: The man with the hot hand opened up scoring in the second half: Boyd hit another three for the Owls, making him 4/6 on the day from deep. Trammell responded with a three of his own, earning his first points on the day. SDSU got a stop on the other end, despite an offensive rebound, and Lamont Butler drew a foul on Martin the next time down the court.
Butler made both his foul shots to chip away at the FAU lead.
Mensah had a nice block as he closed out on Boyd, who tried to drain another one from three-point land.
Florida Atlantic's hot hand is what got them to Houston in the first place, so it should be no surprise that they're shooting a dominant 53.6% from the floor, hitting six threes along the way, in the first half. I emphasized San Diego State's tough defense in the game preview — and of course the Owls knew what to expect going in.
The Aztecs are doing a poor job battling through screens to contest those three-point shots. Nick Boyd, the hero for FAU in the first round against Memphis, is 3/5 from deep. Matt Bradley finally caught lightning in a bottle, quickly reaching double figures in the first half; however, he cooled off when he was put on the bench.
So — what caused the uncharacteristically poor defense for SDSU in the first half? Well, FAU has multiple shot makers, and they're disciplined. Their spacing has created solid shot opportunities for all of their players. Make no mistake: Dusty May is a quality offensive-minded coach, and he clearly has drawn up an impressive game plan to combat the stout SDSU defense.
In my opinion, SDSU needs one of their best offensive performances in the second half in order to advance to the National Title game. Additionally, the defense needs to get out on shooters and do a better job contesting the mid-range game as well.
Dutcher said his team needs to be fearless to win — we'll see if the lights are shining too bright soon enough.
HALFTIME SCORE: It's a barn burner so far in this one. FAU leads SDSU, 40-33, at the intermission in Houston. pic.twitter.com/u8n83iNIQA— ABC 10News San Diego (@10News) April 1, 2023
HALFTIME SCORE: 40-33, FAU: Bradley missed a jumper out of the media timeout, and FAU hit theirs on the next possession. Giancarlo Rosado then stole it from Keshad Johnson, which lead to a missed three by Boyd. Parrish also missed a three after that shot.
Arop was able to end the offensive drought for the Aztecs, but FAU's Martin continued to press the issue, as he made a layup while drawing a foul on Arop. He failed to convert the three-point play though.
Johnson finally made a three-pointer the next time down the court off a Bradley assist. Martin missed a jumper as the clock ticked towards halftime, and Bradley missed a three as the buzzer sounded.
WOW! This has been an exciting game so far — SDSU needs one of their best offensive performances of the seasons in the second half to come away with the W. Ratcheting up the defense is crucial as well.
3:03 remaining, score: 36-28, FAU: Coming out of the under-8 timeout, FAU immediately hit a three-pointer. The Owls have been efficient scoring the basket so far, but the Aztecs have done a solid job matching the pace of play.
Matt Bradley got away with a blatant foul as he hit Johnell Davis' elbow on a three-point attempt. As the kids say though... Ball don't lie: SDSU missed a layup on the other end, and FAU's Martin made a three to make up for the missed call.
Aguek Arop made a jumper after a lengthy possession for the Aztecs that was kept a live by a Bradley offensive board. The Owls scored an easy layup the next time down the court, and Micah Parrish missed a three for SDSU.
Giancarlo Rosado made another jumper to cap off FAU's 10-2 run, and Dutcher called timeout to get his squad back on the same page.
Darrion Trammell, SDSU's best performer in the tournament prior to the Final Four, missed a three coming out of the timeout. Martin missed a three on the other end for the Owls, and Mensah was fouled on a rebound leading into the official under 4 minutes media timeout.
Not sure the Aztecs are doing anything wrong. In fact, this is one of their best offensive halves of the tournament. Florida Atlantic is just playing championship basketball right now.— Ben Higgins (@BenHigginsSD) April 1, 2023
6:40 remaining, score: 26-26: LeDee went 1/2 from the line, and FAU's Golden scored on the other end to tie the game up. Johnell Davis, the best player in the tournament for the Owls, took advantage of a mismatch, backing down Lamont Butler to draw a foul. Davis made both of his free throws. Make your foul shots... win the game.
On the ensuing SDSU possession, Aguek Arop missed a jumper, leading to Brandon Weatherspoon drawing a foul on LeDee (I would like to point out the whistle on this blocking foul was a tad late). Weatherspoon made his foul shots. After a Bradley turnover, FAU missed a three, and Butler took the ball coast to coast for an SDSU layup.
Butler continued feeling his groove, hitting a three the next time up the court. FAU responded with a mid-range jumper of their own.
FAU's Davis stole it from Mensah on the next possession, but he missed the layup on the other end. Mensah redeemed himself with a nice jumper from the key, and he backed down an Owl in the post to tie the game up after FAU had made a three on the other end.
This game is much higher scoring so far than analysts had anticipated going into the matchup. Both teams have hit four three-pointers so far, and overall from the field, they're both at least at 50%.
11:24 remaining, score: 16-15, SDSU: Basketball is a game of runs, and FAU started to claw back. Boyd for the Owls has also hit three threes so far in this contest to keep it competitive. Jaedon LeDee, the lone Houston native in the Final Four, is showing off his strength inside: he scored easily on one possession, then drew a foul to lead into the TV timeout. The jury is out on whether he will make his shots from the charity stripe.
13:39 remaining, score: 14-10 SDSU: Mensah converted the and one, and SDSU got a stop on the other end. The big news of the day though... MATT BRADLEY IS ON FIRE! He's already 3/3 from three in this one, and he had a nice post up move on the following possession to get an easy bucket. SDSU's leading scorer on the season is already in double digits.
Alijah Martin for FAU responded with a bucket of his own, and Boyd made another three to stem the bleed on the dominant SDSU run.
15:56 remaining, score: 8-5, SDSU: Matt Bradley is confident early in this one, something that hasn't happened for him all tournament. He has hit two three-pointers to give the Aztecs the lead early on. Nate Mensah had a bone-headed error with a travel on one possession, but he followed it up by scoring a basket and drawing a foul inside the next time down the court.
We'll see if he converts the three-point play coming out of a TV timeout.
18:08 remaining, score: 5-3, FAU: The Aztecs won the opening tip, but the Owls drew first blood with a three from guard Nicholas Boyd. Matt Bradley, who has struggled throughout the tournament despite being SDSU's leading scorer, responded with a three of his own.
As head coach Brian Dutcher said himself pregame, San Diego State is finally on the biggest stage in college basketball. SDSU vs. Florida Atlantic is the first game to tipoff from the Final Four in Houston, and both mid-major programs are on a mission to make history and secure their first men's basketball championship.
A common saying in sports is "defense wins championships" — and the Aztecs have embraced this mentality. In fact, the blood, sweat and tears poured into building this program over the last 20 years has focused on making defense its calling card.
Although SDSU has forced high octane offenses like Alabama and Creighton to play ugly, Florida Atlantic is no stranger to taking on physical, hard-nosed opponents. The Owls have clawed through the likes of Kansas State, Tennessee, Fairleigh Dickinson and Memphis, all teams with varying styles. Tennessee was designated as a tough defensive team, much like SDSU, and FDU forced FAU to fight tooth and nail.
Kansas State was definitely more of an offensive powerhouse compared to those sqauds, so the Owls will have to change the pace and roll their sleeves up once again.
Save for Alabama, SDSU has held all of its NCAA Tournament foes to under 60 points — an impressive feat in and of itself. Additionally, as former Villanova head coach Jay Wright pointed out on the CBS broadcast, the Aztecs will have the advantage on the offensive glass against the Owls, since SDSU tends to keep two bigs on the blocks down low.
At the end of the day, the Aztecs will need to stay true their team identity to come away with the victory. That being said, FAU is fully prepared to shoot the lights out of the gym, considering their entire starting lineup is competent on the offensive end. If you're an SDSU fan, keep your eyes on Johnell Davis, Alijah Martin and Nicholas Boyd from FAU.
Dutcher had one last message for SDSU before the tip: Just be fearless.
Below, you'll find various interviews conducted by the Mountain West with SDSU's players, and tweets supporting the Aztecs:
Hear from @Aztec_MBB's Matt Bradley (@bradley_matty) on the support the team is getting from back home and how playing in the Mountain West helped prepare the Aztecs' for this @MFinalFour run 🔴🏀⚫️#AtThePEAK | #MFinalFour | #GoAztecs pic.twitter.com/n3iXapdTfv— Mountain West (@MountainWest) March 31, 2023
We caught up with @Aztec_MBB's @kj_showtime0 to talk about the 2020 team that lost its chance at a tourney run and his brother who is a also a few wins away from a national championship 🏆#AtThePEAK | #MFinalFour | #GoAztecs pic.twitter.com/EQ8Pxbs5H9— Mountain West (@MountainWest) March 31, 2023
The MWN's @Bridget_Howard8 caught up with Micah Parrish (@ImmanuelMicah) to talk about why he transferred to San Diego State, the impact from the bench for @Aztec_MBB, and more ⤵️#AtThePEAK | #GoAztecs | #MFinalFour pic.twitter.com/7hmsQuuA6P— Mountain West (@MountainWest) March 31, 2023
🏀 SHOW GRANDMA HEADS TO FINAL FOUR 🏀— ABC 10News San Diego (@10News) April 1, 2023
.@ShowGrandmas Leila McCoy joined @MadisonAWeil l on ABC 10News This Morning to talk about her journey to cheer on the Aztecs in tonight's Final Four game in Houston. https://t.co/KsNkeTxz7l pic.twitter.com/W1AGkcbHgB