San Diego State had too many directions to turn for Georgia to catch
Fullerton, Calif., November 24, 2017 – They traded baskets, they traded runs, they traded elbows and they might as well have been trading paint on a speedway. When the tough, physical Wooden Legacy semifinal was decided, it was because San Diego State had too many directions to turn for Georgia to catch.
The Aztecs will play for the 2017 Wooden Legacy trophy after emerging with a 75-68 victory at Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Gym. They’ll face Washington State on Sunday after the Cougars bumped off No. 21 Saint Mary’s, 84-79.
With Georgia (4-1) holding a 64-63 lead with 3:39 left, the Aztecs unleashed their all-around attack and got scores from five different players to earn their way into their second Wooden tournament championship game. San Diego State defeated Marquette to earn the 2013 title under Coach Steve Fisher, who was courtside watching successor Brian Dutcher.
After a timeout with 3:39 left and Georgia holding a 64-63 lead, forward Malik Pope scored from the low block to give SDSU the lead. The next time down, the Aztecs swung the ball to Matt Mitchell in the corner and with help from two bounces on the rim, hit a 3-pointer from the corner.
Freshman Jalen McDaniels followed with two free throws, then senior guard Trey Kell pump-faked his way into the paint, where he hit a running one-hander and suddenly the Aztecs held a 72-64 lead with 1:42 left. Guard Devin Watson settled matters with a drive and spin for a bucket for a six-point lead with 23 seconds left.
“We know we all have the ability to score really well and we also know we don’t have to try to take games over,” Kell said. “I didn’t have a great shooting night but at the right time they believed in me to make that shot.
“Dutch said it perfectly in the locker room after the game. Last year we dropped a lot of those games but this year, this team, we just have a different vibe around us where we know we’re going to win those close games. We come together instead of being nervous about the situation and trying to do it themselves. We did a great job of team defense, finishing defense with rebounds, just making the right play on offense. We’ve got a lot of belief in each other.”
Watson led San Diego State with 16 points and four assists. Kell had 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and no turnovers in 38 minutes and Mitchell also had 13 points. McDaniels added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Aztecs, who committed only five turnovers.
We’ve got a lot of good players, no one has to force their game,” Dutcher said. “If we just share the ball and take what the defense gives us we have a good chance to put it in the basket.”
The game got off to a rough start. Pope picked up his second foul early and was also hit with a technical foul. Georgia forward Yante Maten, limited by foul trouble in the Bulldogs’ opening win over Cal State Fullerton, was called for a flagrant foul and then a technical foul after another physical altercation moments later.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Georgia coach Mark Fox said. “We made some critical errors in the last moments of the game.”