HOUSTON — Lamont Butler hit the biggest shot in San Diego State history, putting the Aztecs in the national championship game for the first time.
Connecticut dominated yet another NCAA Tournament opponent, completing its return to national relevance.
The Aztecs and Huskies will play for a national title Monday night with history on the line.
For San Diego State (32-6), it will be the culmination of the program building Steve Fisher started and his longtime former assistant Brian Dutcher pushed forward.
UConn (30-8) will be vying for its fifth national title since 1999, but first since Dan Hurley was hired to bring back the program after its fall from grace.
The Aztecs have done it with defense.
San Diego State shut down four straight NCAA Tournament opponents and leaned on its D in the second half to overcome a 14-point deficit to ruin Florida Atlantic’s first Final Four. Butler provided the heroics, hitting a buzzer-beater in the 72-71 win that had all of San Diego celebrating.
“It’s unbelievable,” Butler said. “This is what I came here to do. I’m glad the shot went in. I’m just happy for my team right now.”
The Aztecs (32-6) appeared to be in trouble as the free-flowing Owls (35-4) picked them apart while building a 14-point lead.
The Aztecs shut down FAU and pulled within one when Jaedon LeDee hit a short jumper with 36 seconds left. After FAU’s Johnell Davis missed a contested layup, the Aztecs didn’t call timeout and got the ball to Butler.
The clock ticking down, Butler dribbled to the baseline, found that cut off and circled back. He stepped back to create a little room and hit a jumper that sent the Aztecs racing out onto the floor.
“The plan was just to get downhill,” Butler said. “They cut me off a little bit. I looked up, there was two seconds left, so I got to a shot that I’m comfortable with. And I hit it.”
The Huskies did it by dominating.
UConn won its first four NCAA Tournament games by at least 15 points and wrecked Miami’s first Final Four appearance by dominating the Hurricanes at both ends in a 72-59 win.
UConn got 21 points and 10 rebounds from Adama Sanogo. Jordan Hawkins overcame his stomach bug and scored 13 for the Huskies, who came into this most unexpected Final Four as the only team with any experience on college basketball’s final weekend and with the best seeding of the four teams in Houston — at No. 4.
Against fifth-seeded Miami, they were the best team on the court from beginning to end. UConn took a quick 9-0 lead and never trailed.
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