ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – San Diego State had little trouble ending Furman’s March Madness streak, getting 16 points from Micah Parrish for a balanced scoring attack and pulling away for a 75-52 victory Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Darrion Trammell had 13 points, Lamont Butler added 12 and leading scorer Matt Bradley finished with 10 for San Diego State (29-6), which is headed to its first Sweet 16 since 2004.
The fifth-seeded Aztecs have won 11 of their last 13 games and will play either Alabama or Maryland next week in the South Regional semifinals in Louisville, Kentucky.
“You’re supposed to play your best at the end of the season, and we’re playing our best basketball at the end of the season,” coach Brian Dutcher said.
“Obviously we are hanging on the defense. That’s the one thing we do every game,” Dutcher added. “Then when we get a chance, start shooting and play well in attack, then we are very good.”
San Diego State is the first Mountain West Conference team to reach the Sweet 16 since Nevada in 2018. It will be the Aztecs’ third regional semifinal appearance and the Mountain West’s seventh overall.
Two days after giving up cold shooting and overcoming a 12-point second-half deficit to shock No. 4 Virginia 68-67 on a JP Pegues 3-pointer, Furman was outmatched and gradually worn down by the much more physical Aztecs.
Paladins feel they’ve still shown they belong on March Madness.
“We would have liked to have played better. I wish we shot the ball a little better. But you have to give some credit to (San Diego State). But nothing can take away from what this group did,” coach Bob Richey said.
“It’s an incredible story and I couldn’t be more proud of our team, at a time when I’m extremely disappointed that we didn’t progress,” added Richey. “But it’s really hard not to pull the lens back a little bit and still see what that group was able to accomplish.”
San Diego State led 39-25 at halftime, getting 14 points off the bench from Parrish and limiting Furman to one field goal in the final 11 minutes before halftime.
The Aztecs took control during a 15-0 run that turned a two-point deficit into a 30-17 lead. Furman missed seven straight shots and turned the ball over four times during a 9:56 scoring drought that put the Paladins in a big halftime hole.
Southern Conference Player of the Year Jalen Slawson picked up his fourth foul with 16:27 remaining and fouled out shortly after returning midway through the second half. The super senior stomped the floor in frustration, drew a technical foul that gave San Diego State a pair of free throws that put the Aztecs up 60-37.
Mike Bothwell led the 13th-seeded Paladins (28-8) with 15 points. Alex Williams had 11 and Pegues finished with 11 as Furman shot 32%, including 6 of 26 from 3-point range.
Like Slawson, Bothwell is a super senior who returned to Furman for a fifth season after the Paladins were denied an automatic berth in the Southern Conference NCAA Tournament by a buzzer beater in their league championship game.
The making of this year’s field, followed by Furman’s first tournament victory in 49 years, created memories that will last a lifetime.
“That’s something that nobody can take away from this team,” Bothwell said. “The best team in the history of the school. Nobody won more games than us, and we enjoyed it. That’s the best part of it.”
THE BIG PICTURE
Furman: Paladins lose Slawson and Bothwell, but feel they’ve set the tone for continued success.
“Sometimes what success can do is make you complacent, and I think the challenge for us is to realize that this has to make us even hungrier,” Richey said. “This has to make us want to come back here every day and continue to show that we belong in the NCAA Tournament.”
San Diego State: The Aztecs are 0-2 in Sweet 16 games. Dutcher believes this team is capable of going further.
“Now that we’ve settled into the rhythm and know what it’s all about, I think we’ll play better in the future,” said the coach. “And that’s really encouraging going into the Sweet 16.”
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