HONOLULU – For a game in which teams were separated by no more than two points for the last 10 minutes, it really did come down to the final seconds.
Here’s one look, after postgame interviews tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center:
1) UA calls a timeout with 27.7 seconds left and gets the ball to Mark Lyons. Lyons took the ball at the top of the key, and when SDSU switched on screens, drove inside and was fouled as he shot.
Lyons made both free throws, including a second one after San Diego State called timeout.
To Lyons, it was simple execution of what he knows he can do.
“I just told coach `Just give me the ball and let me make something happen,’ “ Lyons said. “We set a ballscreen, I went to the hole and got fouled.”
Sean Miller said Lyons was the first option if the Aztecs switched, though he had planned to get either Solomon Hill or Kevin Parrom involved if needed.
“Mark made a real strong drive, which you want at the end of games,” Miller said. “He got fouled and made two free throws. … that was that plan: get the switch and then attack and that’s what he did.”
2) When SDSU drove downcourt with 13 seconds remaining, Skylar Spencer set a screen that prompted Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley to switch the men they were guarding.
The only problem was that Ashley couldn’t contain Chase Tapley, who whizzed by him.
“We were switching the screens and you always worry about the small guy on a big guy,” Miller said. “That’s really what Mark did, too. But we have length and Nick, obviously, came out of nowhere.”
Johnson basically lept from the free-throw line to underneath the left side of the basket, where he made a clean swap of Tapley’s layup attempt.
“Coach ran a pretty good play to get my guy and Brandon’s guy switched,” Johnson said. “I was on Tapley but they set a little rub screen, and Tapley got the ball and went around him. So I just decided to help.”
Just decided to help?
“Honestly, I was nervous once (Tapley) turned the corner,” Lyons said. “I was like, ‘man, it’s game over.’ But Superman Bunnies over there (Johnson was standing nearby) came in and denied the shot.”
3) Then, after the block Kevin Parrom wrestled the ball away as time ran out.
“At the end of games you usually win because of a second shot,” Miller said. “It was not only a great shot block but I thought Kevin did a great job of hustling to secure the ball that allowed them not to get another shot off.”
Solomon Hill was named MVP of the Diamond Head Classic, and Lyons joined him on the all-tournament team. Tapley was also named to the all-tournament team, as was Mississippi's Murphy Holloway and Indiana State's Jake Odum.
In the San Diego Union-Tribune, Tapley said he thought the "Red Sea" parted as he drove inside for the layup attempt.
Gotta run to catch a red-eye flight back but will try to post more at some point later this morning...