Darrion Trammell’s free throw sinks Creighton, sends San Diego State to the Final Four

A program that was one of the worst in college basketball 25 years ago, had 14 losing seasons in 15 years, was never ranked in the Associated Press poll until 2010, didn’t win an NCAA Tournament game until 2011, didn’t make it past the Sweet 16 until Friday, doesn’t have a power conference playing in one that fits into the middle seats on Southwest Airlines for road trips, with two players in its rotation who didn’t have Division I scholarship offers out of high school. — He’s going to the Final Four in Houston.

Take a breath and think.

There are 363 men’s college basketball teams in Division I. Four will play in Houston for the national championship. And San Diego State is one of them after defeating Creighton 57-56 in the South Region final on Sunday at Louisville’s KFC Yum! the center

San Diego State Aztecs.

In 1973 he won a Division I national title in men’s volleyball and dropped out of school.

But he will play another game, starting Saturday in the semifinals against Cinderella Florida Atlantic. Connecticut is in the other half against Texas or Miami.

It will be because Darrion Trammell hit a free throw with 1.2 seconds left while attempting a game-winning floater after Ryan Nembhard was fouled — a whistle Creighton fans will no doubt mourn for years.

The Aztecs had the ball and a 56-54 lead with 33.7 seconds left on the sideline. Adam Seiko had called a timeout because he could no longer find anyone open. The next, Creighton’s Baylor Scheierman threw a lob to Micah Parrish that was intercepted and scored under the Bluejays basket.

San Diego State’s Lamont Butler scores against Creighton’s Trey Alexander.

(KC Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Aztecs ran down the clock and had a half-court drive with 6.7 seconds left. The original play was not open and Lamont Butler passed to Aguek Arop, who fed to Darrion Trammell, who dribbled off the ball screen and lofted a floater just inside the free throw line with Nembhard on his back.

The shot bounced off the front rim.

the whistle

Anecdotally, authorities across the country have been swallowing whistles for the last few seconds. But Officer Lee Cassell didn’t, and soon Trammell was on the line for two shots.


do it



That ended a torrid second half as the Aztecs trailed, took the lead, fell behind again and then led again. The game was tied six times in the last seven minutes.

Lamont Butler led the Aztecs with 18 points. Trammell had 12. Nathan Mensah had eight, including a clutch jumper with 1:35 to go that made it 56-54 after Creighton pulled within a pair of baskets by 7-foot-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner (17 points).

The Aztecs shot just 37.7 percent, below Creighton’s 40 percent, but made up for it with 13 offensive rebounds, which they converted into 13 second-chance points. They also held the Bluejays to 2-for-17 from behind the 3-point arc.

The Aztecs coaches said Creighton would be another beast against an increasingly impervious defense, and it was. The problem is that all five players on the floor can score in a variety of ways. Add to that perhaps the best small-big combo in the nation in Nembhard and Kalkbrenner working the big ball screen.

Only five times in the first half, the Bluejays drove the paint to stress the defense and then turned the lobs over on Kalkbrenner. That didn’t have Nembhard driving the play, he had a bad angle but he shot anyway – almost intentionally missing the far side of the basket – because he knew Kalkbrenner would clean it up, which he did.

Aguek Arop scores for San Diego State.

San Diego State’s Aguek Arop scores against Creighton.

(KC Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)

But all things considered, despite their defensive struggles, the Aztecs couldn’t quite pull off an upset going into the halftime locker room trailing just 33-28. The Bluejays shot 53.8% against a team that allowed 32.2% during the tournament and Kalkbrenner already had 10 points. The Aztecs didn’t have an offensive rebound until two minutes into the half and surrendered 20 points in the paint.

Creighton led by eight before an 8-0 Aztec run tied it with 2:44 left in the half. But they missed their next six shots as Baylor Scheierman hit a floater in the lane and Nembhard drained a 3.

At halftime, the Aztecs regrouped and responded by scoring the first six points of the second half to take the first lead at 5-4. They finally figured out how to stop the Bluejays, opening the half 4-for-21 overall and 0-for-8 from behind the arc. The problem, however, was that they scored themselves.

The Bluejays capitalized on a five-minute 0-for-10 shooting drought to take a 41-34 lead. The Aztecs got baskets behind Butler but then went another five minutes without a basket.

But then Keshad Johnson hit a hard hook shot in the lane, was fouled and drained the free throws. Trammell then scored in halftime. Then an offensive rebound followed by Johnson. Then Butler’s pull. Then two hoops from Arope.

A team with a five-minute scoreless streak suddenly scored six straight. The Final Four was suddenly within reach.

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