Aztecs Can't Hold Off Late Wildcats Rally

SDSU's Season Ends With 70-64 Sweet 16 Loss

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Getty Images
    ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 27: Aaron Gordon #11 of the Arizona Wildcats dunks the ball in the second half while taking on the San Diego State Aztecs during the regional semifinal of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Honda Center on March 27, 2014 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

    The Arizona Wildcats put five players on the court who were Top-50 recruits. Two of them were McDonald's High School All-Americans (and that does not even include injured star Brandon Ashley).

    The San Diego State Aztecs have one player on their roster who was a Top-50 recruit (Winston Shepard) and no McDonald's Americans.

    Arizona won Thursday night's Sweet 16 match up at the Honda Center in Anaheim 70-64, but for most of the evening, the more talented team was not the better team.

    San Diego State led for the majority of the game. They were up by four at halftime, and stretched the lead to eight in the second half. However, they did it with an amazing display of energy. By the time the final eight minutes rolled around, that wicked pace took its toll.

    Junior forward J.J. O'Brien made a layup at the 8:18 mark to give the Aztecs a 49-46 lead. SDSU did not make another basket for seven minutes and one second.

    In that time, Arizona went from three points down to seven points up, and SDSU did not have enough time to get back in to it. Still, what was supposed to be a "rebuilding year" turned in to one of the most memorable seasons in San Diego State history.

    "I told our team after the game how proud we as a staff were to have the privilege to have them all year," said Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher. "I have never had a group in all my years that has been more willing to learn and be taught, which makes this even harder."

    Senior guard Xavier Thames, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, had a game-high 25 points. Senior forward Josh Davis, the conference Newcomer of the Year, had a game-high 14 rebounds. Both also left a mark on the SDSU program that will never be forgotten.

    "I told X and Josh that I feel especially bad for them because one of these days we're going to get to a Final Four," said coach Fisher. "When we do, the  two of them will be there with us because that's what our program exemplifies."

    Both Thames and Davis shed tears in the locker room, but accepted the invitation to join the Aztecs whenever they reach the Final Four. They also thanked their coaching staff and team mates, but used a different choice of words.

    "We're all a family, no matter what," said Thames. "We go out and fight for each other each and every day. We're really brothers. We all live two apartments away from each other. So when we say it's a family, it's really a family here."

    "There are no egos on this team," said Davis, who is playing for his third NCAA program. "That's hard to find on a lot of college teams. I enjoy being around people who believe in each other and trust in each other. They're great guys to be around."

    The Aztecs' effort was surely noticed by Arizona head coach Sean Miller.

    "We've played 37 games now," said Miller. "That was the most physical, hard-fought game of the season for us. Their physicality, their athleticism, their toughness, they've got a tremendous team and a great program."

    Next season, the Aztecs welcome their most talented recruiting class yet. SDSU has closed the talent gap with traditional powers like Arizona. Couple that talent with the same level of desire, and X and Josh won't be waiting very long to watch their brothers play in that Final Four.

    Next year the Aztecs had their best recruiting class in history arriving on campus. They have closed the talent gap with the best programs in the nation.