Dave Hyde: Florida Atlantic's fairy tale run ends in reality of San Diego State buzzer-beater

Dave Hyde, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Basketball

HOUSTON — San Diego State’s Lamont Butler took a dribble left, put up the shot just before the final buzzer, and that’s the thing about living the dream like Florida Atlantic this time of year. Sometimes the other team is living the same dream. Sometimes the magic is on their side for one final shot, too.

Butler’s jump shot went through the net. San Diego State won, 72-71. And it was San Diego State celebrating its big moment, not Florida Atlantic, and San Diego State moving on to the championship game, not FAU.

Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May saw his team win at the buzzer against Memphis to start this NCAA Tournament run. Now he just stood bent over with his hands on his knees, not moving after the shot for 10 seconds, 15 seconds, as if numb from what just happened.

How could he not be?

How could players not fall to the court, like a couple of them did?

“I was in shock when the buzzer went off,’' guard Nick Boyd said. “But it’s a game of basketball. We had our fun when we beat Memphis. Now they made the shot. I just didn’t want it to end. Even if we’d won the national championship, I was having such fun I didn’t want it to end.”


That’s the thing about this team. Even in the moments after this heart-stopping loss, they understood what they’d accomplished. They said they’re ready to go back to work right away and do more, too.

“It feels good, what we did,’' teammate Alijah Martin said. “We took this university from the bottom to the top.”

That’s part of this story. The other part, of course, is Florida Atlantic had a great run right until San Diego State flexed its muscle in the final minutes. What was on the verge of a rout with FAU leading by 14 points early in the second half became something else entirely as San Diego State got nine offensive rebounds in a two-minute stretch.

FAU’s lead was cut to 65-60. It looked like boxing more than basketball in the final minutes, every shot contested, every rebound fought over, every possession tilting the game another way. The teams made just four shots in the seven minutes before San Diego State took a 69-68 lead with 57.8 seconds left.


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