Final Four Update – Florida Atlantic University signage (FAU) — Courtesy: Image by Jillian Cain Photography from Shutterstock
The national championship is on the line for San Diego State.
On Saturday night in Houston, Lamont Butler made a jump shot as the clock ran down to give the Aztecs a 72-71 victory over Florida Atlantic. The Aztecs were behind by 14 points at one point before SDSU made a huge second-half comeback.
After coming within a point with 36 seconds left, San Diego State decided not to foul or take its last timeout, which led to Butler’s shot. Coach Brian Dutcher and the Aztecs were happy to let Florida Atlantic finish the game’s shot clock on its final possession without inflicting a foul. As FAU used two of its own timeouts, SDSU snatched the rebound after Johnell Davis missed a runner in the lane.
After moving the ball across halfcourt, the Aztecs might have called a timeout and planned their final move. Butler had a wonderful opportunity to put San Diego State in the national championship game for the first time in school history, but they still wanted to play it out.
“I ran out of plays, so I decided not to take the timeout,” Dutcher said after the game on CBS. “I said if we get the rebound, let’s get downhill, send all three bigs to the rim. Lamont got downhill, he made the play. I’m proud of him.”
The comeback by SDSU is the biggest in a semifinal game in more than 20 years and ranks seventh overall in Final Four history.
Huge offensive rebounds for SDSU
With 14:56 remaining, Florida Atlantic had a seven-point halftime advantage and had increased it to 54-40 after SDSU had trimmed it to five early in the second half.
From there, the Aztecs gradually reduced FAU’s advantage until, with little over nine minutes left, it was just two. A few minutes later, SDSU put together an incredible sequence to stay in the game, grabbing an incredible eight offensive rebounds in a span of 2:10 to equal the score at 65-65 with 4:24 remaining.
San Diego State struggled with its free shots but was able to maintain grabbing rebounds, and FAU’s lead was never greater than three points for the remainder of the game. Only two field goals were made by the Owls in the last 7:44 as SDSU’s renowned defense succeeded in slowing them down.
FAU’s outstanding campaign
During a large portion of the game, Florida Atlantic appeared to be a squad that could win the championship. In the first half, it was able to keep San Diego State from dominating the tempo thanks to its offense, which shot over 50 percent from the field.
Yet, the Owls ran into trouble at the worst possible time. With 45 seconds left, Alijah Martin executed a spectacular reverse layup to increase FAU’s lead to three. On FAU’s final possession, however, SDSU remained unlocked, and Butler eventually received the ball.
The loss brings Florida Atlantic’s record to 35-4, but the Owls will have the most victories of any men’s college basketball club this year and appear poised to contend right away in the AAC after moving from Conference USA over the summer.
“We went on a heck of a ride, we have nothing to hang our heads about,” FAU coach Dusty May said.
After FAU’s defeat, No. 9 and lower seeds are currently 0-9 in Final Fours and have never advanced to a national championship game.
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