And then there were none.
On the night that San Diego State celebrated winning the Mountain West regular season title, the dream of an undefeated season died, and T.J. Otzelberger killed it.
Elijah Mitrou-Long led the way with 19 points off the bench, hitting four clutch free throws in the final minutes, while Amauri Hardy went for 17 points and Bryce Hamilton chipped in with 11 points and 10 boards as UNLV handed the No. 4 Aztecs their first loss of the season, 66-63. The Rebels were able to hang on despite the fact that they did not make a field goal in the final 10:44 of the game, which should tell you how the first 30 minutes of the game went.
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The Aztecs came out flat. They led for the first 1:41 of the game, but that’s it. UNLV jumped out to a 37-25 halftime lead, pushed it to 14 points during the second half and SDSU was not able to get it to a single possession game until the final 30 seconds. If the game was a minute longer, maybe they win, but that’s not how basketball is played.
And if I’m being honest, I think this sucks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for Otz and the entire UNLV program. Those kids played their tails off and deserved to win that game. They showed up for 40 minutes and completed an off-the-butt inbounds against a press with 15 seconds left on the clock. San Diego State spent too long celebrating a league title to be up for it.
It is what it is.
Weird things happen when 21-year olds play basketball.
But it doesn’t change the fact that the most entertaining and exciting storyline of this college basketball season died on Saturday night. I was all in on the Aztecs making a run at a perfect season. I wanted to see them get through the Mountain West unscathed. I wanted them to survive challenges in the second round of the tournament, roll into Madison Square Garden and take down some East Coast powerhouse en route to Atlanta. I wanted to write columns about how Brian Dutcher was able to reinvigorate a program that had stagnated a bit under Steve Fisher and argue about whether or not this SDSU team would be able to beat Kawhi Leonard’s SDSU team. I wanted to see Kawhi sitting right behind me on press row when the games actually tipped off.
In a year where there are no great teams, no great players and no one that is must-see TV, all I wanted in my life was the greatest possible storyline.
San Diego State becoming the first team to go undefeated since Bobby Knight’s 1976 Indiana team in the same year that Knight finally returned to Indiana was that.
So while you might think that, given how annoying San Diego State fans are on any and all social media platforms, I want to dance on the grave of the SDSU undefeated season, you’re wrong.