FORT WORTH, Texas — Trey Alexander converted a go-ahead, three-point play late in overtime, and Creighton rallied for a 72-69 victory over San Diego State in an NCAA Tournament opener Thursday night.
The Bluejays hadn’t led since the first five minutes of the game when Alexander, who also had the tying bucket late in regulation, drove right and was fouled on the layup. The free throw put Creighton ahead 71-69 with 1:08 remaining.
Down by two, the Aztecs had the ball with 4.3 second left when Matt Bradley inbounded to Aguek Arop, then ran around him for the handoff. Bradley lost control of the ball before getting a shot off, and Creighton secured it with 0.8 to to go.
Alexander scored 18 points, and Ryan Kalkbrenner had 16 points and 10 rebounds before leaving with an apparent left leg injury in overtime.
The ninth-seeded Bluejays (23-11) will play Saturday against the winner between Kansas, the top seed in the Midwest Region, and Texas Southern. Creighton reached the Sweet 16 last year.
Chad Baker-Mazara scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half for the Aztecs (23-9), who were in position for their first tournament win since 2015. Gus Bradley added 15.
Bradley had a chance to give San Diego State the lead on free throws with 6.4 seconds left in regulation when Alex O’Connell fouled him on a drive. Bradley missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Arthur Kaluma dribbled the length of the court before lofting an air ball from the baseline as time expired.
The Aztecs had led by at least five points since the middle of the first half when O’Connell hit just the second 3-pointer of the game for Creighton to get the Bluejays within four just inside the two-minute mark.
After a steal led to a layup from Kalkbrenner, Creighton forced another turnover before getting two shots blocked at the other end. The Bluejays thought they had the tying basket on another steal after the second block, but an official ruled San Diego State called timeout.
That ruling was reversed on replay, and Alexander hit the tying layup with 11 seconds to go.
Kalkbrenner went down and grimaced after a posting up Arop as they made contact with each other early in overtime. The 7-foot-1 sophomore got up, tried to take a couple of steps and went back down, holding his left knee. After several minutes, Kalkbrenner was helped off the floor without putting weight on his left leg.
Baker-Mazara had a bucket and a three-point play during a 7-2 run that gave the Aztecs their first double-digit lead in the first half, then converted a four-point play to get the margin back to double digits at 27-15.
Creighton: The Blue Jays missed their first 10 3-point tries before Arthur Kaluma hit one to get them within five with 4:33 remaining. Creighton finished 2 of 14 from deep after coming in ranked 313th out of 350 teams beyond the arc. But O’Connell, who had 15 points, hit a big one late in regulation.
San Diego State: Nathan Mensah, the defensive player of the year in the Mountain West Conference, wasn’t much of a factor because of foul trouble. He picked up his fourth early in the second half, then his fifth.