MEN'S NCAA TOURNAMENT: San Diego State rallies, defeats Florida Atlantic on buzzer-beater
The Aztecs move on to face No. 4 UConn in the championship game Monday
HOUSTON — Lamont Butler drilled a jumper at the buzzer that lifted fifth-seeded San Diego State to a 72-71 victory over No. 9 Florida Atlantic in the first national semifinal at the Final Four in Houston.
Butler provided the Aztecs (32-6) their first lead of the second half and sent San Diego State into the national championship game on Monday.
FAU (35-4) led by as many as 14 points but made just four baskets over the final 8:52, three by Alijah Martin, who had a game-high 26 points.
Martin gave FAU a 71-68 lead with his layup with 45 seconds left. But Jaedon LeDee countered with a jumper for the Aztecs, who held defensively one final time to set the table for Butler.
Matt Bradley paced the Aztecs with 21 points while LeDee added 12.
Nick Boyd scored 12 points for the Owls, who shot 33.3 percent in the second half and allowed 11 second-chance points for the game.
Martin sank five free throws during an extended FAU possession, lifting the Owls to their largest lead of the game at 54-40.
The Aztecs answered with a 16-4 run that featured 3s from Micah Parrish and Bradley, plus five Bradley free throws as San Diego State closed to within two.
Martin appeared to stave off the comeback with a dunk off a backdoor cut and a 3 with 7:44 left for a 65-60 lead.
But the Aztecs finally locked in on defense, holding FAU scoreless over three-plus minutes while producing a dominant stretch of offensive rebounding. That culminated in a second-chance basket from Aguek Arop that tied the score at 65-65 with 4:24 left to play.
Bradley started 4-for-4 from the floor with a trio of 3-pointers, recording 11 points during a 14-0 run that yielded a 14-5 lead for the Aztecs. But the Owls weathered that blow and quickly discovered their offensive rhythm, starting with a pair of Boyd 3s that fueled a 10-2 FAU spurt.
San Diego State countered with four consecutive field goals and pulled even at 26-26 with 6:40 remaining in the first half, but the Aztecs struggled to contain the Owls' diverse scoring attack.
Giancarlo Rosado followed a Martin step-back 3 with three successive baskets in the paint, the third capping a 12-2 run that resulted in the Owls' first double-digit lead at 38-28.
San Diego State shaved that deficit to 40-33 by the intermission but allowed FAU to shoot 53.6 percent from the floor, including 6 of 14 from behind the arc.
No. 4 UConn 72, No. 5 Miami 59
Adama Sanogo produced a double-double and Jordan Hawkins scored 13 points coming off an illness as fourth-seeded UConn rolled to a 72-59 victory over Miami in the second national semifinal of the Final Four on Saturday in Houston.
The Huskies (30-8) earned their fifth berth in the title game, where they will meet San Diego State in pursuit of their fifth championship. UConn improved to 16-0 against nonconference foes this season, doing so by bludgeoning fifth-seeded Miami in the paint.
Behind Sanogo, who paired 21 points with 10 rebounds, the Huskies tallied 38 paint points. UConn shot 49.1% overall and staved off a second-half rally after building a 46-26 lead.
Behind Isaiah Wong, who led the Hurricanes (29-8) with 15 points, Miami used a 19-7 run to close to within 53-45 with 11:40 remaining. Wong delivered a transition dunk, a turnaround jumper and a 3-pointer during the surge, but UConn stabilized behind a Hawkins 3-pointer.
Hawkins sank three 3s after missing practice this week while battling illness. After his 3 stalled the Hurricanes' surge, Miami failed to slice the deficit to single digits for the remainder of the game.
Jordan Miller posted 11 points and 10 rebounds for Miami, which matched a program record for wins this season.
UConn was on fire from the perimeter at the start, drilling three 3-pointers — two from Sanogo — to seize a 9-0 lead. But as they did against Texas in the Elite Eight, the Hurricanes fashioned a response, and when Pack drained a 3 with 8:20 left in the first half, Miami pulled even at 19-19.
Miami followed by suffering through a prolonged cold snap and the Huskies took full advantage, punishing the Hurricanes in the paint behind Sanogo.
The Hurricanes missed nine consecutive attempts during a nearly five-minute scoreless drought and closed the half missing 12 of 14 shots.
Sanogo, meanwhile, finished the half with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
The Huskies built a 13-point lead at the break by making their final three shots, two from behind the arc and one at the buzzer when Alex Karaban capped a perfectly executed set with a 3 for a 37-24 advantage.
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