This one is going to sting for a while.
The San Diego State men’s basketball team lost their first-round NCAA Tournament game to the Houston Cougars on a frustrating, baffling, thrilling and heartbreaking night in Wichita, Kansas by a final score of 67-65.
All things terrible and wonderful about the 2017-18 Aztecs were displayed in a microcosm, as the cliché goes.
San Diego State threw the ball away. The charged. They missed free throws, lots and lots of free throws. They missed threes, layups and bunnies. A deeply annoying opposing player blew up for a career-high dream game against them.
And despite their shambolic unraveling the 11th-seeded Aztecs hung in, defended, rebounded and kept themselves within reach of pulling out a miracle.
A miracle was not to be. With the score tied and the shot clock off, Rob Gray and his awful top knot sliced past Trey Kell, slid under Malik Pope and flipped in the game winner with one tick left on the clock. After an SDSU timeout a good inbounds play got Kell open for a winning three that missed. The ball glanced off the left side of the rim, ending the season and Kell’s and Malik’s Aztec careers.
It took a near-miracle to even get that close. Devin Watson had a brutal game until the very last minute, when he hit a tying three, then another tying three to answer Gray’s three, before that man-bun motherfucker unsheathed his final Hipster Jimmy Chitworth dagger to rip all our guts out.
I felt really confident going into this game. The Aztecs have been rolling, running teams out of the gym and stepping up with clutch plays in key moments. Trey Kell became the player he knew he could be over the last month. Malik found his game. Jalen is emerging into a superstar. SDSU is better than this Houston team. All they had was Man Bun. Had they won, I strongly believe the Aztecs would have torched Michigan and played at Staples Center in the Sweet Sixteen.
It was still a championship season. San Diego State hangs another banner, a crucial benchmark for a program transitioning from a legend.
We’ll taste this loss for some time. Kell will see that last shot carom away every day for years. But he lifted himself and his team from the depths and right to the water’s edge of greatness. The Aztecs put it all out there for themselves and their school. The Dutcher era holds plenty of promise.
Congratulations to the 2017-18 Mountain West Champion men’s basketball Aztecs. It’s quite sad to see you go but y’all were fun as hell to watch.