San Diego State fell to Creighton 72-69 in Fort Worth Thursday ending their run in the NCAA Tournament as they let the game slip away late.
With the overtime loss, No. 8 SDSU (23-9) left the Mountain West without any more teams in the tournament as the Aztecs’ own March Madness dry spell – they haven’t won a game at the Big Dance since 2015 – continued.
So No. 9 Creighton (23-11) moves on to face Kansas in the second-round game of the Midwest regional, set for Saturday.
“To Creighton’s credit, they closed the game and beat us,” coach Brian Dutcher said at the post-game news conference.
Chad Baker-Mazara set the tone early though. Once he entered the game, he put in 15 points as part of a 23-9 run that saw SDSU go up by as much as 14 before the half. Matt Bradley added eight.
San Diego State also forced 11 turnovers, and gained 13 points off them, but Creighton came back. The lead shrank back to 37-30 as the Bluejays ended the half on a run of its own, scoring nine points over the final four minutes.
Creighton hung in after the break, keeping within range of the Aztecs. As the game fell under the five-minute mark, Adam Seiko and his little brother, Bluejay Arthur Kaluma, matched up. Seiko shot a mid-range jumper to give SDSU an eight-point lead, but Kaluma immediately answered on the other side with a three.
Still, with 3:48 to play, Trey Pulliam put in a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down and the Aztecs went up by nine, 62-53.
That would be all for San Diego State in regulation though, and the Bluejays took advantage of the drought, as well as key Aztec turnovers and the absence of the MW Defensive Player of the Year, Nathan Mensah, who fouled out.
The Bluejays ended the game on a 9-0 run, sparked by Trey Alexander and Alex O’Connell, to tie the game at 62. Bradley had a chance at the free-throw line to put San Diego State ahead with six seconds to go, but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Keshad Johnson opened up SDSU’s scoring in OT with a dunk, followed by a Pulliam jumper. But Creighton kept pace – Alexander and Kaluma made key free throws – yet Bradley made a layup, and with two minutes to play, one of two free throws, to give the Aztecs a 69-66 lead.
But after that, the Bluejays rode a 6-0 run to overtake SDSU. They snagged the lead for the first time since early in the first period on a three-point play by Alexander following an Aguek Arop foul.
Yet San Diego State had a couple more looks with just seconds left on the clock. Pulliam tried to take it to the basket, but was off target, and Arop couldn’t tip it in.
After the teams traded time outs, Bradley had the ball with a chance to tie or win with three seconds left, but lost the handle and fouled KeyShawn Feazell on the play. After the forward made one free throw, SDSU tried a miracle heave down the court with less than a second left, to no avail.
Creighton’s coach, Greg McDermott, told CBS his team “made some free throws and got some big stops down the stretch.”
Baker-Mazara, less of a factor the remainder of the game, finished with 17 points, while Bradley had 16 and Pulliam added 14.
Alexander led all scorers with 18 for Creighton and Ryan Kalkbrenner had 16 before he left about two minutes into OT. He fell after some contact under the basket, and after trying to get up, collapsed to the court clutching his left leg. The team told CBS he suffered a left knee injury.
Top Bluejays had to leave the court due to injury four times this season, CBS reported. Each time Creighton bounced back to win the game, including Thursday.
In other MW action, No. 8 Boise State lost to No. 9 Memphis Thursday, while No. 11 Michigan swamped No. 6 Colorado State in the second half to win.
Wyoming was eliminated in the First Four.
Updated 8:55 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. March 17, 2022