Final Four: San Diego State's Lamont Butler hits buzzer-beater to beat Florida Atlantic and send Aztecs to title game

San Diego State is playing for the national title.

Lamont Butler hit a jumper as time expired to give the Aztecs a 72-71 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday night in Houston. The shot capped a massive second-half comeback for SDSU as the Aztecs were down by 14 at one point.

Butler’s shot came after San Diego State elected not to foul or use its final timeout after pulling within a point with 36 seconds to go. The Aztecs and coach Brian Dutcher were content to let Florida Atlantic play out the shot clock on its final possession and not foul to extend the game. After FAU took two timeouts of its own, Johnell Davis missed a runner in the lane and SDSU got the rebound.

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The Aztecs could have called timeout after getting the ball across halfcourt and drawn up a final play. But they wanted to play it out, and Butler got a great look to put San Diego State in the national title game for the first time in school history.

“I ran out of plays, so I decided not to take the timeout," Dutcher said after the game on CBS. "I said if we get the rebound, let’s get downhill, send all three bigs to the rim. Lamont got downhill, he made the play. I’m proud of him.”

SDSU's comeback is the fifth-largest in Final Four history and the biggest in a semifinal game in over 20 years.

SDSU’s massive offensive rebounds

Florida Atlantic led by seven at halftime and extended its lead to 54-40 with 14:56 to go after SDSU cut it to five early in the second half.


From there, the Aztecs chipped away at FAU’s lead and had it down to two with just over nine minutes to go. SDSU then stayed in the game with a massive sequence a few minutes later as the team grabbed a remarkable eight offensive rebounds in a 2:10 stretch to tie the game at 65-65 with 4:24 to go.

FAU’s lead was never more than three points the rest of the way as its offense went cold and San Diego State had trouble with its free throws but was able to keep getting rebounds. The Owls made just two field goals over the final 7:44 as SDSU’s vaunted defense finally figured out a way to slow them down.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 01: (EDITORS NOTE: In this photo taken with a remote camera) Lamont Butler #5 of the San Diego State Aztecs shoots the ball to win the game against the Florida Atlantic Owls during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four semifinal game at NRG Stadium on April 01, 2023 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Lamont Butler hit a buzzer-beater to propel San Diego State into the national title game. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

FAU’s remarkable season

Florida Atlantic looked like a team capable of winning the national title for much of the game. Its offense was especially crisp in the first half as it shot over 50% from the field and was able to prevent San Diego State from controlling the tempo.


But the Owls started to struggle at the worst time. Alijah Martin made an incredible reverse layup with 45 seconds to go that extended FAU’s lead to three. But FAU couldn’t unlock SDSU on its final possession before Butler got the ball in his hands.

Florida Atlantic finishes the season at 35-4 with the loss, though the Owls will have the most wins of any program in men’s college basketball this season and look set to compete right away in the AAC as they move from Conference USA over the summer.

“We went on a heck of a ride, we have nothing to hang our heads about,” FAU coach Dusty May said.

FAU’s loss means that teams seeded at No. 9 and lower are now 0-9 in Final Fours and have never made a national title game.