Entering Sunday’s contest against 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast, San Diego State ranked among the best teams in the country in regards to defensive efficiency (11th per kenpom.com).
But in a 17-0 second half run the Eagles shredded the Aztec defense and the end result was an 81-71 FGCU victory, giving Andy Enfield’s program its first-ever trip to the Sweet 16. This is also the first time a 15-seed has reached the Sweet 16, with the 1997 Coppin State Eagles (82-81 loss to Texas) coming closest to achieving the feat before Sunday.
Next up for FGCU is a game against South Region 3-seed Florida on Friday at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex.
While this can be seen as a missed opportunity for Steve Fisher’s program to reach the Sweet 16 for the second time in three years it’s important to note that FGCU was the better team on the floor.
FGCU shot 55.9% from the field and Bernard Thompson led five Eagles in double figures with 23 points. SDSU managed to hang with the Eagles for the first 30 minutes, leading 35-34 at the half, but unlike FGCU the Aztecs could not avoid that decisive cold streak on the offensive end.
Jamaal Franklin (20 points, 11 rebounds) and Chase Tapley (17) led the way for San Diego State, which shot 45.2% in the second half, but their offense was no match for the Atlantic Sun tournament champions during that 17-0 run.
For the season SDSU shot 43.8% from the field entering Sunday’s game, and against Oklahoma on Friday night the Aztecs shot 42.9%. In order to beat FGCU with a similar effort San Diego State needed to get stops, and they were unable to do so.
Entering the offseason the Aztecs have some important personnel issues to address, most importantly the graduation of both Tapley and James Rahon and Franklin’s NBA Draft prospects. However with players such as J.J. O’Brien, Winston Shepard and Xavier Thames expected to return the talent is there to contend in the Mountain West next season.
There will be disappointment in the aftermath of their loss to Florida Gulf Coast, but there’s no doubt that San Diego State ran into a better team on this night.