Tucson, AZ (Sports Network) – Kawhi Leonard scored 10 of his 16 points after the regulation buzzer, and San Diego State shut down Temple in the second overtime to survive, 71-64, and advance to the Sweet 16 in the West Region of the NCAA Tournament.
The Aztecs’ frontcourt — Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas — carried the second seed in the West to a hard-fought victory after squandering a double-digit lead.
White had 16 points and 13 rebounds, Leonard pulled down nine caroms and Thomas put up 13 points, nine boards and four blocks, including a pivotal denial of Lavoy Allen in the final minute of the second overtime.
San Diego State (34-2), which recorded its first tourney win on Thursday against Northern Colorado, will meet Connecticut in Anaheim next week.
“We’ve got a good team. We find different ways to win. We did that again tonight,” SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said. “Collectively we’ve won 34 games, so we feel we belong. We’re excited to be playing next week.”
Ramone Moore totaled 17 points to lead the seventh-seeded Owls (26-8), who were attempting to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001. Khalif Wyatt and Juan Fernandez and netted 14 points apiece in the loss.
San Diego State went cold from the field late in regulation, allowing Temple to score nine of 11 points over a seven-minute span to tie the game.
With under a minute to play, the Aztecs had the ball with the score tied, 54-54, and White missed a gimme from the left block. The rebound, however, was swiped out of bounds and touched Temple’s Rahlir Jefferson sitting on the baseline, giving the Aztecs the ball with 25.6 seconds left.
The Owls committed a non-shooting foul with four seconds to go, and after a timeout, Chase Tapley stepped into a leaner along the right baseline. Despite contact on the play, the whistles stayed silent and the shot fell off the mark, sending the game to an extra five minutes.
Fernandez, who hit the game-winning basket against Penn State on Thursday, opened the extra session with a three-pointer. The Owls stayed in front until Thomas converted a three-point play with two minutes left to tie it, 61-61.
Fernandez missed a deep two and a three on Temple’s final possession of the first overtime. San Diego State held for the final shot, but Thomas’s turnaround from the right side fell short.
Two Leonard free throws 2:22 into the second OT gave SDSU a lead, 63-61, it did not relinquish.
Trailing 67-63 with under two minutes to play, Wyatt came up with a steal in the backcourt and was fouled. He hit just 1-of-2 from the line, but the Owls got the ball back when Leonard was well short on a straightaway three.
A frenetic Temple possession ended with Allen taking a shot on the left block and getting rejected by Thomas with under a minute to play.
“When the shot went up, you know, my natural reaction was to try to block it and I got it. I’m just excited that I blocked it,” Thomas said.
Leonard made two free throws at the other end, then threw down a dunk after causing a turnover to seal the Mountain West Conference Tournament champions’ first trip to the Sweet 16.
The first half was nip-and-tuck before San Diego State ran off nine straight points to go up 23-16 with seven minutes showing.
Tapley started the run with a three-pointer and later hit another from long range for a 34-23 left with four minutes to go.
Temple scored the final six points of the half to stay within five, 36-31, at the intermission, and closed to 38-36 on a Moore three-pointer three minutes into the second half.
Temple had a chance to take its first lead of the second half 7 1/2 minutes in, but Jefferson missed a layup in transition. The Aztecs scored eight of the next 10 points, with Tapley’s three-pointer yielding a 50-43 lead near the midway mark.
The Owls continued to miss makeable baskets but stayed within striking distance by hounding SDSU on the defensive end.
Allen’s jumper from the right elbow cut the deficit to 52-49 with under five minutes remaining, and it stayed that way until a Leonard bucket three minutes later.
Wyatt drained a huge three from the right wing to make it a two-point game, and following D.J. Gay’s rushed scoop shot from 15 feet, Allen tied the game with a jumper inside the final minute.
“I’m so proud of our guys and how they hung in there. We were struggling mightily at one stretch and somehow found a way to get it back and have an opportunity to win the game,” Temple head coach Fran Dunphy said. “In the second overtime we didn’t do a couple things that we needed to do.”
San Diego State was 0-6 in the NCAA Tournament prior to this season…Temple fell to 32-29 in the event…Tapley ended with 12 points for SDSU, which had a 16-7 advantage in fastbreak points…Gay made up for a 3-for-13 shooting effort with six rebounds and five assists…Allen chipped in 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Owls, while Jefferson pulled down 12 caroms in defeat…The Aztecs held a 42-35 edge on the glass.