San Diego State University player grabs head in frustration during a game
San Diego State University player. Credit: AP Photo

The NCAA Tournament Final Four lived up to its exciting reputation with big shots, timely defense and a nail-biter of an ending here at NRG Stadium.

The fifth-seeded San Diego State Aztecs continued its improbable run, squeezing by No.9 seed Florida Atlantic, 72-71, on a last-second shot by guard Lamont Butler in their national semifinal matchup Saturday night. Then in the late game, No. 4 seed Connecticut held on to its dominant ways by running away with a 72-59 win over the fifth-seeded Miami Hurricanes.

UConn and San Diego State will now meet in the national championship game at NRG on Monday night. The Huskies are looking to win their fifth national championship while the Aztecs are in their first-ever Final Four.

“There’s a lot of teams that want to play Monday,” UConn forward Adama Sanogo said. “It means a lot to us. It means everything we work for.”

The national semifinals were all about the excitement with San Diego State coming out on top in a game FAU had dominated most of the night.

With the play clock winding down and his team trailing by a point, San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher made it clear to Butler that his job was to drive the baseline for the layup.

Butler, however, saw that the baseline was taken away and with two seconds remaining in the game he pulled up for the biggest buzzer-beater jumper in Aztecs history, lifting San Diego State to the come-from-behind victory.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Butler, whose team knocked off Tournament overall No.1 seed Alabama in the Sweet 16. “It’s what I came here to do. I’m glad the shot went in. I’m just happy for my team right now.”

It didn’t end the way Dutcher drew it up, but he will take it.

“Lamont made the shot,” Dutcher said. “I always say March is for players, not coaches. Lamont made a play, and made his old coach look good.”

UConn, meanwhile, led the Hurricanes from start to finish in another dominant win. The Huskies have defeated opponents by an average of 20.6 points this tournament.

They easily defeated a Miami team that upset both No.1 seed University of Houston and No.2 seed University of Texas in the Sweet 16 and Elite, rounds respectively.

“I think what we we’re doing – when we’re playing harder than the other team, which is our calling card, going like plus-nine on the glass, playing elite defense and having a lot of answers on offense, there is nowhere where we’re weak as a team and we’re deep,” said UConn coach Dan Hurley. “So, we’re able to kind of body blow our opponent and continue to just put together quality possessions at ends and the backboard, and it has a cumulative effect.”

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Terrance HarrisPro | College Sports Editor

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....