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Fisher's experience trumps Kruger's in San Diego State victory

The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- In a matchup of two coaches with no shortage of NCAA Tournament experience, it was Steve Fisher's San Diego State squad that got the better of Lon Kruger's Oklahoma team as the Aztecs earned a 70-55 win over the Sooners in a second-round NCAA Tournament game Friday night.

The No. 7-seeded Aztecs trailed by two at the break but took the lead less than three minutes into the second half and would never trail again. The 10th-seeded Sooners would tie the game twice after that, the last time being 48-48 with 10:41 remaining.

After a 3-pointer by senior Romero Osby cut the Aztecs' lead to 56-51 with 6:55 remaining, the Aztec defense would clamp down and hold the Sooners without a point for the next 5:30. By the time Amath M'Baye converted a layup with 1:25 remaining, the San Diego State lead was 10 and the game was well in hand.

"The score was 48-48 and over the next eight minutes and change we outscored them 15-3 because we didn't give them easy baskets, we didn't give them second-chance opportunities and we took advantage of our opportunities," Fisher said.

SDSU has just three NCAA Tournament wins in program history, but all three have come in the last three seasons. When the Aztecs were a 2-seed in 2011 when they advanced to the Sweet 16, they were a far less battle-tested team than the experienced squad that took the court late on Friday night.

"I think that experience always helps, but effort has to be there," Fisher said. "Sometimes it's just a little, little, little thing that if you let up just that much, that hard shot becomes a little bit easier and they make them."

Three Aztecs scored in double figures, led by Jamaal Franklin's 21. The junior guard also had eight rebounds and a team-high five assists.

"Jamaal does what every coach expects but doesn't always get," Fisher said. "He gives you maximum effort every second he's out there, and it's not 100 percent what you want but you're not going to ever fault him for effort."

James Rahon added 17 points and Chase Tapley 10 for SDSU. DeShawn Stephens contributed seven points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

San Diego State only made one more field goal than their opponent but made 12 more free throws, going 16 of 17 from the line as compared to just 4 of 8 for Oklahoma.

Fisher picked up his 23rd NCAA Tournament win to go along with three Final Fours, including a national championship at Michigan in 1989 after Bill Frieder left at the end of the regular season to take the Arizona State job.

Kruger has 14 NCAA Tournament victories and one Final Four appearance under his belt.

Oklahoma led for most of the first half, going up by as many as nine before taking a 33-31 lead into the break in the last of the day's four games at the Wells Fargo Center.

Osby scored 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting was the only Sooner in double figures. He also added a team-high eight rebounds though San Diego State won the battle of the boards, 40-29.

"I knew it could potentially be my last game and I wanted to go out there and fight as hard as I can," Osby said. "But I've got to credit my teammates, they found ways to get me the ball in certain situations and they really kept coming to me when I got a little hot hand for a minute."

San Diego State advances to face upstart 15th-seed Florida Gulf Coast, which upset No. 2-seeded Georgetown.

NOTES: Tapley, a senior guard, is the first player in San Diego State history to play in four NCAA Tournaments. ... Kruger is the first coach in NCAA history to take five Division I programs to the NCAA Tournament (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV, Oklahoma). ... Osby is the only Sooner with any previous NCAA Tournament experience. He played 12 minutes as a freshman at Mississippi State in a first-round loss to Washington in 2009. ... SDSU improved to 15-0 this season when wearing their white uniforms.
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