San Diego State couldn't shoot straight most of the night and turned ball over at the worst of times.
Then, a final burst of magnificent athleticism allowed the Aztecs to survive and play again.
Billy White had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard sealed San Diego State’s exhausting, 71-64 double-overtime victory against Temple with a steal and a slam dunk in an NCAA tournament thriller on Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.
“We were tired but we knew that we had to win this game,” Aztecs point guard D.J. Gay said after playing all 50 minutes. “We just wanted it a little bit more. We just sucked it up.”
White sank the go-ahead jumper and Leonard made two free throws as the second-seeded Aztecs (34-2) finally put away the pesky Owls (26-7).
Ramone Moore scored 17 for No. 7 seed Temple, which was coming off a 66-64 last-second victory over Penn State in the second round. San Diego State, never an NCAA tournament winner before this season, advanced to the West Regional semifinals Thursday in Anaheim, Calif., against Connecticut.
Chase Tapley matched his career best with four 3-pointers – in five attempts – but it was the soaring ability of coach Steve Fisher’s team that finally made the difference.
“We’re good. We know we’re good,” Fisher said, “but you have to have a bit of good fortune. And I said to them after the game, we probably had a little bit of that tonight.”
San Diego State blocked six shots, four by Malcolm Thomas, none bigger than his rejection of Lavoy Allen’s inside attempt in the final minute with the Aztecs clinging to a 67-64 lead. For Thomas, a hometown player with San Diego’s skyline tattooed on his biceps, it was an atonement for a crucial turnover moments earlier.
“I made a lot of plays that could have cost us the game,” he said. “But you know, being an Aztec, we know we can make it up defensively, or try to make it up defensively.”
Leonard, who struggled offensively much of the game, made two free throws with 30.4 seconds to play to put San Diego State ahead 69-64, then stole the ball from Khalif Wyatt in Temple’s backcourt, racing uncontested for the slam that sent the Aztecs’ faithful into one last frenzy.
Temple had beaten Penn State on a last-second basket by Juan Fernandez on Thursday to end Owls coach Fran Dunphy’s NCAA record of 11 straight tournament losses. He came ever so close to making it two wins in a row.
“It would have been a great, great victory for us,” he said. “But we were short. We came up short. And hopefully we will learn from it.”
Connecticut 69, Cincinnati 58: Kemba Walker scored 33 points and the supposedly powerful Big East finally advanced a team to the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 when the third-seeded Huskies (27-9) eliminated conference rival Cincinnati in Washington, D.C.
Walker scored 16 points over the final 10 minutes as UConn ended the game with a 24-13 run.
Rashad Bishop scored 22 points for the sixth-seeded Bearcats (26-8).
Cincinnati become the seventh of the Big East’s record 11 NCAA tournament teams to be eliminated. Another one will exit today when Marquette plays Syracuse in the East regional.