San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Inside the Aztecs’ late-game success en route to NCAA championship game

SDSU will try to put UConn where no team has all tournament
Morgan Prickett
Final Four hero Lamont Butler answers questions at NRG Stadium on April 2, 2023. Butler hit the game-winning shot in SDSU’s win over Florida Atlantic in the Final Four.

 HOUSTON— Both teams in Monday night’s NCAA Championship have had very different roads to the big game. 

The University of Connecticut has dominated its opponents and will enter the championship with an average margin of victory of 20.6 points. The Huskies’ closest contest was a 13-point win over the University of Miami in last night’s second Final Four game and even in that game, they controlled most of it, building a lead as large as 20 points. 

Meanwhile, the San Diego State Aztecs have made it here by the skin of their teeth after completing two comeback wins over Creighton and Florida Atlantic University after taking the lead on both of SDSU’s final possessions of the game. 

Despite the raised heart rates and sweaty palms, this isn’t new for the Aztecs. They have been successful all year in close games as they are 10-1 in games decided by five points or less — an incredible number considering the volatility of college basketball. Junior guard Lamont Butler has been the hero in two of those wins with buzzer-beaters over the University of New Mexico in February and FAU last night. 

Butler credited the teams’ preparation in practice for their success in crunch time. 

“It’s something we work in practice,” Butler said ahead of tomorrow’s championship game. “We do scenarios, one-minute, 30-second scenarios against our scout team, who is really good. It just kind of prepares us for these moments.” 

The scout team is an aspect of college basketball that is often overlooked. Typically made up of a team’s younger players or those at the end of the bench, the scout team prepares the rotation players for what they will see come game time.

Freshman guard Miles Byrd has spent his first year in the Aztec program on the scout team and said the length of SDSU’s scout team has paid dividends for the team.

“Our scout team might be one of the biggest scout teams in the country,” Byrd said. “Beside (Jared Barnett) who’s 6 feet, I’m 6’7, (Elijah Saunders) is 6’8, (Cade Alger) is 6’10 and (Demarshay Johnson Jr.) is 6’10, so we’re throwing size out there. We compete with the starters every day. Every day is a battle.”

This practice against length will be important heading into the game with UConn. The Huskies’ shortest player in their starting five is 6-foot-5-inches and their length has given opposing teams problems all tournament.

Senior guard Darrion Trammell also said that the late-game success comes from the attention to detail in practice and after coming out on top in these games, the team knows they can deliver when they need to.   

“It’s been working out each game we’ve had, we’ve closed them out,” Trammell said. “I think that’s given us great confidence. When we’re in those situations we don’t get flustered. We’re not tightened up, we’re not nervous because we know we’ve been there before and we were practicing this for the entire year.”

Now comes the hard part.

SDSU has to find a way to slow down a very talented UConn team that has blitzed its way through the West Region and into the championship game. They are just the sixth team since 1985 to enter a national championship game with five wins by double digits. In order to win, the Aztecs will have to find a way to put UConn where they haven’t been all tournament.

“They haven’t had to worry about close games so far,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “I hope we can give them one, and we’ll see what they do in a close game. They’ve been fantastic. They’ve run through the field and so it’s a great challenge.”

When the ball tips off Monday night the hardwood floor at NRG Stadium will read “The Road Ends Here.” Both UConn and SDSU have had their own paths but only one will take the last step to immortality.

About the Contributors
Justin Cox
Justin Cox, '22-23 Sports Editor
Justin Cox (he/him) is a senior journalism major from Sonoma, California. He is excited to be a Co-Sports Editor of The Daily Aztec for the 2022-23 academic year. Previously, Cox was a sports section staff writer covering a multitude of Aztec sports including basketball, water polo, soccer and tennis. He is excited to head the sports section alongside Co-Editor Morgan Prickett with the hopes of providing fresh and engaging content for the student body. Before coming to The Daily Aztec, Cox spent time as an intern for the Sonoma Index-Tribune covering local news and was also published in the Sonoma Sun newspaper. Cox can often be found watching sports, running or going to the beach in his free time. 
Morgan Prickett
Morgan Prickett, '22-23 Sports Editor
Morgan Prickett (he/him/his) is a journalism major heading into his senior year. He was born in Libreville, Gabon and has lived in multiple countries before arriving here at SDSU. He is a soccer writer for the local news site East Village Times, the president of the National Association of Black Journalists chapter at SDSU, and also serves as the VP of External Relations on SDSU’s School of Professional Studies and Fine Arts College Council. If he’s not watching or playing sports, he’s most likely jamming out to music while preparing a home cooked meal in his kitchen. This year he is looking forward to bringing coverage to all sports at SDSU in the most entertaining way possible.
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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Inside the Aztecs’ late-game success en route to NCAA championship game