HOUSTON, TX—The San Diego State Aztecs overcame a 14-point deficit against Florida Atlantic University on Saturday, April 1, with a 72-71 victory to advance to the NCAA Championship Game at NRG Stadium. Lamont Butler raced across the court and nailed the game-winning jumpshot as time expired.
The Aztecs faced the University of Connecticut for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship on April 3, where they lost. For San Diego State, it marked the first time the program has reached the championship game.
“It’s unbelievable,” Butler said. “This is what I came here to do. I’m glad the shot went in. I’m just happy for my team right now.”
The Aztecs (32-6) appeared to be in trouble as the Owls (35-4) picked them apart while building a 14-point lead.
San Diego State got back in it with defense.
The Aztecs shut down FAU and pulled within one when Jaedon LeDee hit a short jumper with 36 seconds left. After FAU’s Johnell Davis missed a contested layup, the Aztecs didn’t call timeout and got the ball to Butler.
With the clock ticking down, Butler dribbled to the baseline, found that cut off and circled back. Butler stepped back to create a little room and hit a jumper that sent the Aztecs racing out onto the floor into Monday’s championship game against UConn.
“The plan was just to get downhill,” Butler said. “They cut me off a little bit. I looked up, there was two seconds left, so I got to a shot that I’m comfortable with. And I hit it.”
The Aztecs had no answer for the Owls in the first half, allowing them to hit 5 of 11 from 3-point range to build a 40-33 halftime lead.
FAU stretched the lead to 14 mid-way through the second half. With their season hanging on life support, the Aztecs displayed gritty defense and took high percentage shots, rather than simply jacking up constant 3-pointers.
Contesting nearly every shot and pass while pulling down a string of offensive rebounds, San Diego State rallied into a tie at 65. Matt Bradley led the offense in the second half and finished with 21 points after struggling with his shot in the previous three games.
The Aztecs are the 7th team in NCAA Final Four history to come from the state of California, an NCAA record.