TUSCON, Ariz. — With the San Diego State men’s basketball team down by three in the first overtime of Saturday’s game against Temple, senior point guard D.J. Gay wasn’t worried. The Owls hadn’t been ahead since midway through the first half and the Aztecs blew a late lead to let Temple force overtime, but Gay had faith. They had been there before.
SDSU had down-to-the-wire games against Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo., and against UNLV all three times they played, and used clutch play to pull out victories in each of those games. On Saturday, the Aztecs did the same, beating the seventh-seeded Owls 71-64 in double overtime and earned a trip to the Sweet 16 in Anaheim this week.
“We’re a team that has been there before, these kinds of grind-out games,” Gay said. “When the score is tied and the last two minutes the game can go either way, this is a team that’s been in this situation before. And we’re going to find a way to win whether if it’s on the offensive end or defensive end.”
In this case, SDSU used defense to pull out the win. With the Aztecs barely holding a 67-64 lead with 44 seconds left in the second overtime, Malcolm Thomas had a soaring block on Temple’s Lavoy Allen, which led to a foul on Kawhi Leonard at the other end. Leonard sank both free throws to put SDSU up by five.
Was that block the biggest play of Thomas’ basketball career?
“Definitely,” the senior forward said. “When the shot went up, my natural reaction was to try to block it and I got it. I’m just excited that I blocked it.”
On the next possession, Leonard stole the ball from the Owls’ Ramone Moore and finished with a fastbreak dunk to seal the win.
Senior forward Billy White had his third-straight double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
With the win, the Aztecs advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history.
“(It’s) like a dream come true,” Gay said. “This is something we talked about in the summertime and preseason and even during the season. To finally achieve this goal, it feels special.”
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