The Butler did it.
A seemingly devastating turnover flipped an Aztecs one-point lead upside down and looking up to a one-point deficit.
That’s when Lamont Butler, with six seconds left, brought the ball up court and launched a three-pointer from the top of the arc at the buzzer. The silence of the sold-out crowd inside New Mexico’s “Pit” told it all.
Butler sank the incredible game-winner, securing a share of the Mountain West title for the Aztecs basketball program and sent the frenzied Lobo fans heading for the exits utterly speechless.
After losing at home to the Lobos last month, the Aztecs hoped to return the favor, but it was not going to be easy.
This game was a physical affair, with the referees letting both teams play through rough physical exchanges early on. In the games openings minutes, UNM’s Jalen House, clearly and intentionally tripped SDSU’s Nathan Mensah on after blocking his shot—all without even a replay by the officials.
Despite the no holds barred, San Diego State did not shy away from the physicality. Rather the defense embraced it and rose to the occasion.
Even though the Aztecs could not connect on their shots in the first half (34% from the field and 14% from three-point range) their defense kept them in it, allowing eight less shooting opportunities.
New Mexico, on the other hand, was on fire from beyond the arc. Shooting an impressive 6-10 from downtown and nearly 50% from the field, the Lobos played nearly flawless basketball for the first half.
But the disruptive Aztec defense kept UNM from taking complete control of the game, at least for a while.
After 15 even minutes, the Lobos fueled by their spirited home crowd, went on a late run to take a 10 point lead into half. The final possession of the half saw Aguek Arop swirl a put back in & out of the basket as the half time horn blared out. Such a near miss summed up the Aztecs offensive output perfectly.
For all their dominance during the first half, in the second half the Lobos stopped doing all the things they had done well to take the lead.
For the first six minutes in the second half New Mexico carried their momentum, extending their lead to a game high 13, however the game never felt out of reach.
San Diego State outshot, out-rebounded, and outplayed New Mexico in the second half. The defense for the red & black was great in both halves, but the stats only reflect so in the second.
They numbers clearly support this however. SDSU kept the Lobos offense to 20% shooting from beyond the arc, out-rebounded them 21-13 (5-2 on the offensive glass), and outscored them 5-0 on second chance points as well as beating their bench 15-0 in the second half.
With all the physicality, surprisingly the Aztecs got the wrong end of the whistle. New Mexico shot 22 free throws to San Diego State’s four, with all four of them coming in the first half. A far cry from what the physically dominant Aztecs usually draw from opponents.
Butler will get a lot of the publicity after this game, and deservedly so. However Darrion Trammell was clutch in the second half, willing the Aztecs back into the game from a various deficits through-out the evening. Trammell finished with 18 points. Matt Bradley had 11 points and Butler ended the game with 10.
With the win the Aztecs have secured a share of the Mountain West title, their third in as many seasons. With a victory in either of the final two games, San Diego State will clinch an outright title. Their first chance is at Boise State this Tuesday.