Win Advances Team to Regional Semifinal
Fred Pierce ('84, '88) (r) with friend Mike Neal ('84, '96) after Aztecs' 71 - 64 win over Temple.
Like hundreds of SDSU fans and alumni in the McKale Center stands Saturday, when the horn finally sounded signaling an end to the second excruciating overtime in the Aztecs’ 71 – 64 NCAA Tournament win over Temple, Fred Pierce's (’84, ’88) exuberance erupted.
"This (victory) is one for the ages,” he said. “We've been waiting for it 40 years - Aztecs in the ‘Sweet Sixteen!’"
With the win, the Aztec men’s basketball team advanced farther than ever before in the NCAA Tournament. They’ll play the University of Connecticut Huskies in the West Regional semifinal round Thursday in Anaheim.
James Guevarra ('94) was among the Aztec faithful in Tucson celebrating SDSU's win over Temple.
After running up an 11-point advantage in the first half, the Aztecs saw their lead dwindle until, at the end of regulation, the score was tied. It took two extra periods to finally dispatch the Owls.
"It was a great win, but to be honest with you, I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” said James Guevarra ('94) who traveled to Tucson from Escondido for the game. “I was thinking to myself, 'Are we going to give the game away?' I was nervous about it, but we showed our toughness and we pulled through."
FINDING A WAY TO WIN
Legendary Aztecs fan Tom Ables (’50) was there with his wife, Nancy, and son, Ken (’80). Since his freshman year in 1946, Ables has been to more than a thousand San Diego State basketball games and 705 football games. He says he ranks this victory among his top five of all time in any Aztec sport.
Legendary Aztec fan Tom Ables ('50) (center) with son, Ken ('80) (l) and wife, Nancy (r) at the McKale Center in Tucson after the Aztecs' win over Temple.
"This team always finds a way to win, I just wasn't sure how they were going to do it this time,” Ables observed. “I know some of these players personally and they really have the right attitude. This is a team with a capital T. These kids don't care who stars individually. It's a team effort and it shows. This time they weren't all at the top of their game maybe, but, by gosh, the team won the game. That's what counted."
Ables said he will be in Anaheim Thursday to cheer the Aztecs on to an appearance in the regional finals or “Elite Eight.” Pierce is planning to be there, too.
"We're going to the ‘Final Four’ - absolutely to the ‘Final Four,’ he insists. “Our guys will have to play a little better - make a few more shots - but they've got the gods of Montezuma on their side!"
Having won their program’s first NCAA Tournament game, then advancing to the regional semifinals, the Aztecs are navigating waters uncharted by an SDSU men’s basketball team. Their fans are thrilled to be along for ride they hope will carry them all the way to Houston and a national championship.
"We were yelling, 'Sweet Sixteen! Sweet Sixteen!' said Guevarra. “Well, I want to yell, 'Elite Eight! Elite Eight!' Then I want to yell, 'Final Four! Final Four!' So let's get that going!"
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