San Diego State advances to first Sweet 16 since 2014

As JP Pegues lay on the court and tangled with San Diego State’s Nathan Mensah, the Furman guard could only watch in confusion after missing what appeared to be a sure layup. Instead, the remaining Aztecs raced down the field looking to extend a double-digit lead.

Forty-eight hours earlier, Pegues’ last-second 3-pointer dashed Virginia’s tournament hopes and propelled the Paladins into the second round. This time, it was No. 13 Furman that was shocked after a poor shooting half led No. 5 San Diego State (29-6) to a 75-52 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Amway Center on Saturday.

“We hang our hat on defense and that’s one thing we do every game,” Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said. “So when we get the opportunity, we start making shots and play offensively, then we are very good.”

San Diego State advances to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014.

The 23-point win was the program’s biggest win in NCAA Tournament history.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t our night,” Furman coach Bob Richey said. – We wish we had played better. Wish we had shot the ball a little better, but you have to give them credit for some of that.”

Furman (28-8) started the game by connecting on two of its first three shots to take a 4-0 lead, but the Paladins then went cold from the floor, hitting just one of its next seven shots. The silence opened the door for San Diego State to come back to take a 10-6 advantage.

The teams traded leads for several minutes before Furman took a 13-12 advantage with 11:58 left in the half. Shooting woes continued to plague the Paladins, who went more than six minutes without a point — allowing San Diego State to go on an 18-1 run that pushed the Aztecs back on top.

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Dutcher credited the team’s ability to dig deep into the roster for providing a much-needed breakout during the critical stretch.

“It’s hard to do that, but when you have the depth we have, we always have fresh legs on the floor,” he said. “We’re not playing a guy and all of a sudden he’s tired because he’s so valuable he can’t be off the floor. Everyone is equal on the team and anyone is capable of leading us in scoring and anyone is capable of making important plays.”

To that point, San Diego State had nine players with more than 15 minutes of action.

SDSU forward Micah Parrish scored 14 of his 16 points over the final 8:35 of the first half to help push the lead to 39-25 at halftime. Parrish was one of four Aztec players to finish in double figures, along with Darrion Trammell (13), Lamont Butler (12) and Matt Bradley (10).

Parrish, who led the team in scoring for just the second time in his career, credited his teammates for his performance.

“We’re just trying to find an open guy,” he said. “Every game might not be your game, but I guess today was mine and my teammates kept finding me.”

The second half wasn’t much better for Furman, who struggled from the floor, and the Paladins connected on just two of six field goals to start. To make matters worse, forward Jalen Slawson picked up his fourth foul with 16:27 left in the game, sending the fifth-year senior to the bench. technical error on the way out.

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“They were definitely the most physical team we played this year and one of the best defenses in the country,” Pegues said. “When they have the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year [Nathan Mensah]it makes things even more difficult with his ability to block shots and to be able to contest some shots at the rim.”

Mike Bothwell led Furman with 15 points while Alex Williams had 11.

This article first appeared on Email Matt Murschel at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @osmattmurschel.

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