Dream season ends for FAU in 72-71 Final Four loss to Aztecs
HOUSTON -- FAU’s debut at the Final Four ended in the most excruciating manner imaginable.
The Owls led for the last 27 minutes, 25 seconds of Saturday night’s game against San Diego State, only to watch their dream of a title become a nightmare when Lamont Butler’s jumper went through the net at the buzzer to give the Aztecs a 72-71 victory.
The Owls made school history by getting here, only to walk off the court in shock as the Aztecs bounced around in celebration.
“I was in shock when the buzzer went off,” said FAU’s Nick Boyd.
Florida Atlantic’s players smiled and many danced on the bench during a second half in which it appeared they’d move within one win of a title no one could have seen coming.
Instead they ended up with a loss that nobody will ever forget.
Butler’s shot goes into the March Madness annals, alongside Jalen Suggs’ long-range buzzer-beater for Gonzaga two years ago in the national semifinal, and even something that happened on this very floor the last time the Final Four was Houston in 2016: Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater to win the title for Villanova.
Which means FAU will be remembered alongside UCLA and North Carolina as victims of some of the most crushing last-second losses this tournament has seen.
For so long, it didn’t look like it would go that way.
Jalen Gaffney made a 3-pointer to put the Owls ahead 26-24 with 7:25 left in the first half. FAU didn’t trail again until the buzzer.
The Owls were up by 9 with 11 minutes to go after testing San Diego State’s vaunted defense like no one had in this tournament before the Aztecs started chipping away at the lead.
The Aztecs got within 2 for the first time with about 10 minutes to go and tied it with 4 1/2 minutes left.
Giancarlo Rosado put the Owls back on top with a fadeaway jumper seconds later, but they didn’t make another field goal until Alijah Martin’s layup made it 71-68 with 45 seconds left.
Jaedon LeDee hit a jumper to cut FAU’s lead to 1 with 36 seconds left.
Johnell Davis missed a layup with nine seconds left that would have padded the lead.
Nathan Mensah grabbed a rebound before Butler’s jumper swished through the net at the buzzer to end this Cinderella’s dream season.