Aztecs Survive BYU to Face Pitt in Semifinals
By Rodney S. Yap
San Diego State head basketball coach Steve Fisher is hoping to make his fifth trip to Maui his most memorable.
On Monday, the veteran coach hit a couple of milestones with his team’s double-overtime victory, earning his 500th overall win as a coach and his 316th at San Diego State, tying George Ziegenfuss’ school record.
“We’re in the semifinals of the Maui Invitational, that is what’s most important,” said Fisher, deflecting the focus to his 15th-ranked Aztecs, who survived 94-87 against BYU to start 4-0 for the first time since reaching the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament in 2010-11. “That’s what I’m most proud of. I think I represent — I’ve been here more than all the rest of these guys put together. . . . We want a chance to put a San Diego State banner up where they have some of those other banners. So we’re excited to be playing in the semis of this event.”
San Diego State entered this week’s EA Sports Maui Invitational Tournament shooting 35.8, well below the 46.3 percent his 2010-11 team shot that finished 34-3.
The Aztecs struggled offensively, but shot 48.5 percent Monday, turning back their former Mountain West rival before a standing-room-only crowd of 2,400 at Lahaina Civic Center.
Reserve Aqeel Quinn scored a career-high 22 points and hit a big 3-pointer in each overtime.
”I just looked down to see if I was behind the 3 and let it fly,” said Quinn said, who finished with a career-best six 3-pointers.
”This is the kind of game we’ve had for a lot of years with BYU,” said Fisher, who’s team is off to its best start since winning a school-record 34 games four seasons ago.
Pittsburgh, a 81-68 winner against Chaminade, awaits the Aztecs for the first time today at 5 p.m. The winner will face No. 3 Arizona or Kansas State in Wednesday’s championship at 5 p.m.
Arizona advanced by beating Missouri 72-53 and Kansas State won its first-round game over Purdue 88-79. The two winners meet in today’s first semifinal at 2:30 p.m.
The Panthers (3-1), who out rebounded Division II host Chaminade 51-17 and grabbed 27 offensive rebounds, bounced back from Friday’s 74-71 loss to University of Hawaii here on the Valley Isle.
“I thought we were tense,” Dixon said. “I think we hit a team that played well the other day, and we’re not where we need to be defensively to be the team that plays well and win games with our defense as we have in the past. We’ve got to get better at it.”
The Panthers’ Derrick Randall did work on the backboards, grabbing a tournament record 21 rebounds. Michael Young had career highs of 27 points and 15 boards.
“Yes, my field goal percentage is way up from last year, and shots, I’m getting great shots and I’m going to continue to get great shots,” Young said. “Just playing around the rim is what I’m most comfortable doing.”
The Panthers are without two of their top perimeter players. Junior forward Durand Johnson is suspended for the season and senior guard Cameron Wright is out with a broken left foot.
BYU (3-1) trailed nearly the entire way before rallying behind Tyler Haws. The senior guard scored 20 of his 26 points after halftime.
“This one just hurts,” Haws said. “We had our chances in the second half and couldn’t pull it off.”
The Aztecs were 19-for-31 on free throws but hit big ones down the stretch.
BYU enjoyed a five-point lead in the first overtime but couldn’t close it out or keep up with the Aztecs in the second overtime. Kyle Collinsworth had 21 for the Cougars.
“We had a hard time getting the lead and protecting the lead once we got it late,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “We’ll have to bounce back from a disappointing loss.”
Although the Aztecs scored no more than 53 points in their previous two games, they managed to score the game’s first 11 points and hit 16 of 33 shots in the first half.
Ironically, San Diego State’s last last double OT game was in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament against Temple.
“At the end of the first overtime, probably a lot of people thought: ‘Well, that streak’s over,’” said Fisher, whose teams are 18-1 in their last 19 overtime games. “We didn’t panic, even though we made some crazy plays at times, and found a way to win. That’s the name of the game.”
Fisher loves coming to Maui and is glad to be here with this team.
“This is where we all want to come. I begged Dave Odom (tournament chairman), who is a long-time friend to get using. So we are privileged to be here, and we’re more proud of the fact that we are playing in the winner’s bracket.”