Now that the post game gatorade showers have emptied out all the coolers, coach Brian Dutcher has the wonderful task of having them filled all the way back up.
With little time to dry themselves off of all the locker room celebration Saturday night, the Aztecs fresh off one of the most emotionally draining games in school history, must hit the road to the gem state of Idaho where the Boise State Broncos await them Tuesday night.
The game can be viewed on CBS Sports Network at 6pm PST.
The Aztecs will need all the rehydration they can get, after pouring out all they had inside during Saturday’s 73-71 buzzer beater victory over the Lobos.
The must win for New Mexico set everything up nicely for Richard Pitino’s Lobos at the sold-out ‘Pit’. Having already embarrassed a flat-footed Aztecs squad at Viejas arena earlier this season, the entire state population appeared to be crammed inside the notorious basketball gym.
Despite all the noise, tough shots and slanted foul play, Lamont Butler’s ‘Mamba-like’ mentality buzzer beater, burst UNM’s bubble chances of making the big dance without a required conference tournament championship run.
“It’s so loud, its tough to communicate on both ends. lamented Lobo coach Patino about the raucous atmosphere. “With only six seconds left, I thought they would try to go to Bradley with something. It was pretty gutsy of them to knock down a three. It is what it is.“
Everyone in the arena shared the same shock & awe after Butler’s shot went up and the down inside the net—including coach Dutcher himself.
“Obviously I over-coached the play. I told him to drive all the way to the basket and try to get a layup. We were only down one but he shot a 3 and it went in. I’m so happy for Lamont, how he was able to make that play and win us a conference title.“
With the stakes so high and play clock so low, Lamont was able to demonstrate just how far he has come in this short season since some earlier transgressions this year.
Taking the ball from one end of the court to the other without as much as a sniff of panic or hesitation allowed Lamont to do exactly what has come natural to him—to do what he has worked so hard at in practice.
Though the opportunity to do so was a pleasant surprise, the confidence to execute was never in doubt.
“I was a little surprised because Darrion was cookin the whole second half. But he (coach Dutcher) trusted me and my teammates did too.” Butler acknowledged in his radio interview on SDSports AM 760 this week.
Darrion Trammell saw things from a slightly different angle. “I told him he saved my life. That turnover could’ve been costly. And he stepped up and made a big shot. I thanked him for it. I told him I’ve got his breakfast lunch & dinner for him the rest of the month.“
These type of hail mary plays are what we love about this time of year. With just a day away from the calendar ushering in the beginning of March Madness, it’s this kind of play that SDSU will need to propel themselves through the gauntlet of the NCAA tournament.
But I digress, with two regular season games still ahead, there is still unfinished business to attend to for this SDSU ‘redeem team’. A team that lost all three games last season to the regular and eventual conference tournament champion, Boise State.
Since those three loses in 2022, SDSU has had their fair share of disappointments—mostly on mutual courts in tournament action. But on the road this season, the Aztecs have only one loss in conference play.
For Boise State, it’s at home that they have a completely unblemished record. The defending champions are back in the ExtraMile arena and this senior night game is already declared a sell-out.
But not all is well for the boys in blue. A loss last weekend against the rising San Jose State team set themselves back both in the conference standings, but also the bubble watch.
The Broncos sitting at just 2-3 in Quad-1 wins to show for, Dutcher & Co. had best prepare for yet another desperate team and home arena fans to fight against. The Broncos are badly in need of a quality win and a turnaround in momentum heading into the Mountain West tournament.
The return of senior guard Marcus Shaver Jr. presents to SDSU a completely different dynamic than what they saw in Viejas at the beginning of the month. The Aztecs intentionally and effectively hounded the Broncos in the backcourt causing 12 turnovers and keeping Max Rice limited to just 16 points.
Meanwhile SDSU’s physicality tore the Boise State bigs down low with nearly 10 more rebounds on the way towards a 20 point victory.
After Saturday’s miraculous ending it appears the Aztecs are ready to right their wrongs moving forward. But are they truly able to bring their A game on the road against the program that shut them out last season
“I was able to learn from my mistakes which was big. Lamont Butler reasons about how he and this team is different coming down the stretch this season.
“Coaches kept trusting me to make plays throughout the year. Without their trust I don’t think I would be able to do that. I was able to put it behind and just keep trying to win and everything will take care of itself after that.“
For coach Dutcher, Butler’s game winner is a special moment Lamont will always remember. But he knows this team has to go all out tonight if they want to get all that they want.
“Last year they beat us three times. I’m happy that we got a piece of the regular season title … now, we have to be selfish and not try to share it.“
SDSU vs Boise State can be viewed on CBS Sports Network at 6pm PST. Be sure to watch the latest Sons of Montezuma Podcast for all the newest Aztecs Sports talk.