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Friday, June 2, 2023

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SDSU guard Lamont Butler handles the ball against FAU during their Final Four matchup at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (SDSU) SDSU guard Lamont Butler handles the ball against FAU during their Final Four matchup at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (SDSU)

SDSU's Incredible Win Puts Team in National Title Game

Lamont Butler, once again, saved his best for last.
By Aaron Burgin

Lamont Butler, San Diego State University's 6-2 junior guard hit a 15-foot pull-up jump shot at the buzzer to vault the Aztecs into the national championship game for the first time in program history. 


San Diego State rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit - the fifth-largest comeback in Final Four history - to defeat Florida Atlantic 72-71, sending fans in Houston and at Viejas Arena into a frenzy.


"I looked up, saw there were two seconds left so I got to a shot that I'm comfortable with and I hit it. I'm happy," said Butler.


Aztecs fans viewing the game at Viejas stormed the court following Butler’s shot. 


The Aztecs will now face the winner of the University of Connecticut and the University of Miami in the second national semifinal game, which tips at 5:49 p.m. 


READ: SDSU Dad Lamont Butler Sr. Reflects on Son’s Journey from Backyard Hoops to NCAA’s Big Stage  


Butler scored 9 points, none bigger than the final shot, a mid-range jump shot that he has patented over the course of the season. 


"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 Riverside Poly graduate has had a breakout tournament, earning All-South Region honors while shooting 17-33 from the field over the first four games. He shot 3-6 from the field in the Final Four.


Matt Bradley led the Aztecs with 21 points. He and senior Jaedon LeDee, who scored 9 of his 12 points in the second half, buoyed the team for most of the second half, as the Aztecs clawed their way back into the game. 


Florida Atlantic took its largest lead of the game at 56-42 with 13:35 left in the second half. 


Then, the Aztecs began their march back. Fueled by LeDee, Bradley and a massive effort on the boards, the Aztecs went on a 23-9 run over the next 8 minutes to tie the game at 65 with 4:26 left on a 15-foot jumper by Aguek Arop.


SDSU grabbed 8 offensive rebounds during a three-minute stretch to give themselves extra opportunities to cut into the lead while they struggled to convert shots from the foul line. 


The Aztecs shot 13-22 from the foul line, including six misses during the final six minutes of the game. 


Florida Atlantic responded by retaking a 71-68 lead with 46 seconds left after a reverse layup by Alijah Martin, who scored a game-high 26 points for the Owls. 


But the Aztecs got a 10-foot jumper from LeDee with 38 seconds left and forced a missed shot on Florida Atlantic’s final possession, which set up Butler’s game-winner. 


The Aztecs, which have relied on a stifling defense all year to win the Mountain West Conference regular season and tournament titles, held the Owls to 31 second-half points after ceding 40 points in the first half.


Florida Atlantic outshot the Aztecs 44% to 43% for the game, but the Aztecs settled in after allowing the Owls to shoot 53.9% in the first half. 


The Aztecs outrebounded the Owls 35-34 in the game, including a 12-8 edge on the offensive boards built largely during the final minutes of the game. 


SDSU got 9 points from senior Arop, 7 points from senior Nathan Mensah, and 6 points from Micah Parrish, who hit a pair of threes during the 23-9 run that allowed the Aztecs to tie the game. 



San Diego State trails Florida Atlantic 40-33 at halftime of their NCAA Final Four semifinal.

The Aztecs took a 14-5 lead early in the first half before the Owls responded with a 15-0 run to retake a 20-17 lead with 10:01 before halftime. 

After both teams exchanged baskets the next three minutes, the Owls closed the half on a 14-7 run. 

Matt Bradley, who came into the game on an extended shooting slump, led all scorers with 11 for the Aztecs, all of which came in the first six minutes of the game. 

Nathan Mensah added 7 and Lamont Butler scored 5 points for the Aztecs, which shot 44.8 percent from the field in the first half. 

The Owls shot 53.6 percent in the first half, with all nine of its players scoring at least one basket. Nick Boyd led Florida Atlantic 9 points.  
The Aztecs, known for being stingy against the three point shot, have allowed FAU to go 6-for-14 from the arc.  
Both the Aztecs and Owls are trying to reach the national championship game for the first time in the history of their respective programs. They will face the winner of Connecticut and the University of Miami in the other semifinal contest.