After a woeful start to the tournament for the Mountain West conference, San Diego State faced the challenge of maintaining their conference’s reputation, and they responded with flying colors. The Aztecs trailed 33-31 at the half, but they were able to keep things close before exploding with a 15-3 run late in the second half that put the game out of reach for good.
Junior guard Jamaal Franklin led SDSU with 21 points (on 6-13 shooting), 8 rebounds, and 4 assists, while James Rahon added a crucial 17-point effort off of the bench in the victory. Franklin has been the bell cow for the Aztecs all season, and when it mattered in crunch time, he was up to the challenge with 11 second-half points.
For the Sooners, they were simply unable to sustain their offense against the tenacious SDSU defense in the second-half, finishing the frame with just 22 points, and scoring only 3 points over an 8-minute stretch in the decisive moments. As a team, Oklahoma shot under 40% from the field, and they couldn’t make up for their lack of efficiency with increased possessions, as they lost the rebounding battle 36-28.
Though many people (including myself) thought that Oklahoma was either a) over-seeded, or b) undeserving of a bid, the Sooners showed themselves to be a worthy tournament team on this night. In the end, however, San Diego State was simply more talented, and the play of Franklin (along with gang rebounding) stood out above all else for me. Steve Fisher’s team will move to face the suddenly popular #15-seed in Florida Gulf Coast, and the bracket has really opened up for the Aztecs to represent the Mountain West in the Sweet 16.