The Butler Did It: Buzzer-Beater Sends SDSU to Championship Game
By Rodric Hurdle-Bradford
San Diego State University junior guard Lamont Butler may have been only tied for the third-leading scorer of the game in the Aztecs’ 72-71 victory over the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Owls on Saturday night, but there is no doubt he scored the most important two points in the program’s history as his buzzer-beater midrange jump shot sent the Aztecs to the NCAA Championship game versus the Big East Conference’s University of Connecticut Huskies.
Butler’s shot capped an unforgettable comeback that saw the Owls, the team with the best record in all of college basketball, jump out to a first half lead as big as 10 points with only one minute left in the first half. That lead was cut to seven with 39 seconds left as senior forward Keshad Johnson made a three-pointer on a pass from senior guard Matt Bradley.
At the time that shot just led to a 40-33 halftime score, but looking back it set the stage for the most memorable event in the history of the Aztec athletic program.
The second half didn’t begin with much promise as a three-point shot by Owls freshman guard Nicholas Boyd one minute into the half quickly negated Johnson’s three-point shot and established another 10-point lead for FAU. However, 15 seconds later Aztecs sophomore guard Darrion Trammell responded with a three-pointer of his own, quickly cutting the lead back down to seven.
However the second half was a struggle for the Aztecs, who found themselves down 14 with less than 15 minutes remaining in the game.
Then the greatest comeback in the Aztecs’ athletic program history occurred.
Trailing 54-40, the Aztecs’ comeback was spurred by the Owls’ going cold from the field, missing a half-dozen jump shots in a row, which led to free throws and three-point shots by the Aztecs, butting the lead 56-48, which proved to be a pivotal moment in the game. With less than ten minutes remaining in the game an FAU turnover led to a made jump shot by Aztec senior forward Jaedon LeDee, slicing the lead to 60-56.
As slowing scored in the last ten minutes of the half, the Aztecs continued to chip away on the Owls’ lead, by taking advantage of their larger size with offensive rebounding and aggressive play that led to free throws and connecting on key jump shots.
That play set the stage for Butler’s legendary shot, which gave the Aztecs their first lead since a 17-15 advantage early in the first half.
Competing versus Connecticut
The Aztecs now find themselves with a monumental task of defeating the University of Connecticut in Monday’s Championship game. The Huskies are undefeated against non-conference teams all season, winning each game by double digits, including an impressive regular season victory against the University of Alabama Crimson Tide, a number-one seed in the tournament.
Where the advantage lies for the Aztecs is that the physical, forward-dominant Huskies play a very similar style of basketball as the Aztecs, meaning that daily practice all season long has really been a tune-up for the Championship game.
Look for the toughest physical match in the 80-plus year history of the NCAA Men’s Championship game.
We’ll all know soon enough…