SDSU Mountain West NCAA
Lamont Butler watches his game winner go up and in at New Mexico Saturday. Photo credit: Screen shot, CBS Sports Network

San Diego State nearly gave the game away in the final 16 seconds at New Mexico Saturday. Then Lamont Butler took it right back, hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer for the 73-71 win.

The Aztecs (23-5, 14-2 Mountain West) erased a 13-point second-half deficit against the Lobos (20-9, 7-9 MW), and went up by four with 23 seconds to play on a Micah Parrish three. But New Mexico capitalized on a foul by Nathan Mensah and a turnover by Darrion Trammell for the 71-70 lead with six seconds left.

Butler, though, after the in-bound play, rushed up court, and according to his coach, was supposed to take it to the basket. He didn’t, pulling up, and with less than a second on the clock shot the long jumper, hitting nothing but net.

“He had the poise to raise up and make a pull up jump shot,” Brian Dutcher told CBS Sports Network. “I wanted him to go to the rim. But players win games, not coaches.”

With the victory, the Aztecs clinched at least a share of the MW title, which they can secure outright by winning one of their final two games – on the road Tuesday at Boise State or at home March 4 against Wyoming.

The teams played even for much of the opening half, but the Lobos took charge with just over five minutes to go.

Matt Bradley made a jumper off a New Mexico turnover to go up 24-21, but the Aztecs would not score for the next three minutes. The Lobos took advantage of the drought, starting with a Jamal Mashburn Jr. three-pointer, followed by three free throws by Jaelen House, and another three by KJ Jenkins for a six-point lead.

New Mexico was up by 10 at the break, as a Trammell shot failed to drop in the final seconds. Aguek Arop grabbed the offensive rebound, but his layup bounced in and out.

The Aztecs fell further behind after the break. New Mexico’s 13-point lead almost four minutes into the half dwindled, but remained in double digits at the 13:32 mark.

Yet San Diego State marched back, led by Trammell, who had four threes in the half – “he kind of carried us back into the game,” Butler told San Diego Sports 760 – including one, a second-chance shot that cut the deficit to two with 7:37 to play.

A Udeze Morris layup restored the Lobos’ lead to four, but with a three by Keshad Johnson, followed by an Arop layup, the Aztecs had their first lead of the half with under six minutes to play.

The lead continued to change hands, but Trammell on two of his threes, twice gave it back to SDSU, including with 2:31 on the clock to break a 64-64 tie.

After two free throws by Mashburn, Parrish hit his own shot from long distance for the late four-point lead. Yet on the return up court, Mensah fouled Mashburn as he attempted a three.

The Lobos’ leading scorer made all three free throws, and when play resumed, Trammell made a bad pass that House grabbed for the layup and the one-point New Mexico lead. During the ensuing San Diego State timeout, Dutcher drew up the play for Butler.

The junior told Sports 760 that as he ran up court, he saw that two seconds remained, so he “let it fly,” watching as the shot went up, seemingly in “slow motion.” 

In the win, to split the season series with New Mexico, Trammell lead SDSU with 18 points, while Butler finished with 10. Mashburn had 20 for the Lobos.

The Aztecs travel to Boise State (22-7, 12-4 MW) for a battle of the top two teams in the MW at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Boise State lost Saturday in overtime to San Jose State.