By Bob Baum
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) One last burst of magnificent athleticism finally did it for San Diego State.
Billy White had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Kawhi Leonard sealed San Diego State’s exhausting, 71-64 double-overtime victory against Temple with a steal and a slam dunk in a third-round NCAA tournament thriller on Saturday.
White sank the go-ahead jumper and Leonard made two free throws as the second-seeded Aztecs (34-2) finally put away the pesky Owls (26-7).
Ramone Moore scored 17 for No. 7 seed Temple, which was coming off a 66-64 last-second victory over Penn State in the second round. San Diego State, never an NCAA tournament winner before this season, advanced to the West regional semifinals Thursday in Anaheim, Calif., against the winner of Saturday night’s Cincinnati-Connecticut matchup.
Chase Tapley matched his career best with four 3-pointers – in five attempts – but it was the soaring ability of coach Steve Fisher’s team that finally made the difference.
San Diego State blocked 13 shots, four by Malcolm Thomas, none bigger than his soaring rejection of Lavoy Allen’s inside attempt in the final minute with the Aztecs clinging to a 67-64 lead.
Leonard’s two free throws with 30.4 seconds to play put San Diego State ahead 69-64, then he stole the ball from Khalif Wyatt in Temple’s backcourt, racing uncontested for the slam that sent the Aztecs’ faithful into one last frenzy.
The Aztecs, held to a season-low 18 second-half points as the patient Owls clawed back into it, had not played a double-overtime game in seven years. When they had the last shot at the end of regulation and the first overtime and failed to score, the loud throng that made the trek east on Interstate 8 could see their dream season headed toward a possible inglorious, premature conclusion.
After a brief exhibition of its fast-break prowess gave San Diego State an 11-point first-half lead, the game slowed to the methodical pace so preferred by Temple. A series of missed shots at point-blank range – by both teams – and some untimely Aztecs turnovers transformed the game into one of those NCAA wild ones.
Juan Fernandez, the hero of the win over Penn State, scored 14 for the Owls but was just 5 of 16 shooting – 1 of 10 INSIDE 3-point range. Wyatt also scored 14 and Lavoy Allen had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Thomas scored 14 for the Aztecs to help Fisher advance to a regional semifinal for the fifth time. The first four were with Michigan, the last in 1994.
San Diego shot just 43 percent, but Temple was worse at 38 percent.