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

Magical season comes to an end

SDSU’s Malcolm Thomas buries his face after UConn knocked the Aztecs out of the NCAA Tournament. Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor
SDSU’s Malcolm Thomas buries his face after UConn knocked the Aztecs out of the NCAA Tournament. Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor

ANAHEIM — When the final buzzer of the Sweet 16 game sounded, D.J. Gay didn’t need to look up at the scoreboard. The senior point guard could physically feel the San Diego State men’s basketball team’s magical season come to an end.

The final score: Connecticut 74, SDSU 67.

Just like that, there were no more games to be played, no more roaring alley-oop dunks, no more soaring Kawhi Leonard rebounds, no more vicious Malcolm Thomas blocks. And no more chances at a national championship.

“It hurts,” Gay said. “You never want it to come to an end. We had a lot of success this year, a lot of accomplishments, but at the end of the day, we wanted it all.”

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Head coach Steve Fisher couldn’t take solace in the Aztecs’ many accomplishments, either. Not the Mountain West Conference season title, the MWC Tournament Championship, the Top-10 national ranking or SDSU’s first-ever Sweet 16 appearance.

“When your season comes to a screeching halt like it will for every team with one exception, it hurts,” Fisher said. “It should hurt, regardless of when, where and how. For our team this year, for what they’ve accomplished, it hurts exponentially more.”

UConn’s duo of Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, who will face Butler in the national championship tonight, were to blame for all the hurt. Walker scored 36 points (22 in the second half), hitting shots from everywhere on the floor, and Lamb finished with a career-high 24 points on 9-11 shooting (3-3 from long range).

Walker, who was guarded primarily by sophomore guard Chase Tapley and senior forward Billy White, was impossible to stop.

“(Walker’s) just an amazing player,” White said. “Our goal was to try to contain him, he’s almost impossible to stop. Our goal was to try to make him take tough shots and shoot over us, and he did a real good job today penetrating the lane and shooting wide-open threes.”

Despite the success of the Huskies’ backcourt, the Aztecs had a chance to take the lead late in the game.

Gay hit a 3-pointer to make the score 64-65 with 2:53 remaining. After Lamb hit a three a minute later to put UConn up by four, Gay, who at one point went on a stretch of 177 minutes this season without turning the ball over, threw a pass right to Lamb, who finished with a fast-break dunk.

70-64 Huskies, 23 seconds left to play.

Leonard hit a three on the ensuing possession to make it a three-point game, and had a chance to make things interesting with nine seconds left. Leonard received the ball behind the arc, and threw up an open three.

“I thought when he shot it, it was going to go in,” Fisher said.

It didn’t. The ball clanked off the rim, Lamb finished with another dunk at the other end of the floor, and the game was out of reach.

The Aztecs also had two critical technical fouls in the game, the first coming only four minutes into the first half.

Leonard picked up a personal foul, and kept arguing with Huskies’ forward Alex Oriakhi. The refs gave him a technical (Leonard’s second foul), and all of a sudden SDSU’s best player had to sit the bench.

The second technical was a bit more costly. Up 53-49 and with momentum going the Aztecs’ way, freshman guard Jamaal Franklin bumped into Walker going to the bench. Walker flailed, flopping soccer-style, and went down. After a lengthy review, officials gave Franklin a technical. That started off a 25-14 UConn run to finish the game.

Although the NCAA Tournament ended in heartbreak, Fisher knows what the season meant for SDSU’s basketball program moving forward into the future.

“This will be a team that 10, 20 years from now when we’re bringing teams in, they’ll talk about San Diego State of 2010 and ’11 with a lot of positive pride,” Fisher said. “They upped the bar for the program and they know that we’ve got a program and proud of the fact that they have had a huge, huge role in taking it to unprecedented heights for San Diego and San Diego State.”

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Magical season comes to an end