SAN DIEGO (AP) — It wasn’t looking or sounding good for San Diego State when it trailed Cal State Northridge by 19 points with 15 minutes to go.
Coming off a blowout loss to Brown three days earlier, the Aztecs were again playing poorly at home and this time they were booed by their fans.
Just like that, though, the Aztecs finally found their rhythm and the Matadors started playing like the young team they are.
“Nineteen points behind in the second half, the team showed its grit,” coach Brian Dutcher said after the Aztecs won 65-60 Tuesday by outscoring the Matadors 38-14 during the final 15 minutes. “They came out with a hard-fought victory.”
SDSU became the sixth team in Division I to rally from a second-half deficit of 19 or more points this season.
“We found our flow,” senior guard Devin Watson said. “We were looking for that flow and basketball is 40 minutes so I knew we weren’t down too much to where we couldn’t come back. Once we found that flow that’s when we got it going.”
SDSU (8-5) rallied behind redshirt sophomore Jalen McDaniels, who had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and the senior backcourt of Watson and Jeremy Hemsley.
Hemsley made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:57 left and finished with 13 points, while Watson scored 14.
SDSU appeared headed for its second straight ugly home loss when it trailed the Matadors (6-9) 46-27 with 15:12 to go.
But the Aztecs suddenly found their game, and it also helped that CSUN redshirt freshman Lamine Diane — who finished with 23 points and 14 rebounds — drew his fourth foul and came out with just more than eight minutes to go and CSUN leading 51-44.
SDSU tied it at 51 on Watson’s 3-pointer with just more than six minutes to go and the Aztecs took a 56-55 lead on Adam Seiko’s 3-pointer with 3:34 left, their first lead since 7-6. The Matadors’ last lead was 60-58 on Michael Ou’s free throw with 2:12 left, before Hemsley hit a 3 to give the Aztecs the lead for good. SDSU closed out strong behind McDaniels’ rebounding and got the final four points from Watson, on a layup and two free throws.
“I thought we looked like a young team, which we are, and they rose up and made a couple of shots,” Matadors first-year coach Mark Gottfried said. “We knew they would make a run of some sort. They weren’t going to roll over and just quit. But we didn’t answer it very well. I thought we got a little impatient offensively and we didn’t get the same shots we had gotten a little bit earlier.
“You’ve got to give those guys credit, too,” Gottfried added. “I thought they got into us a little bit and started playing harder the last 10 minutes.”
The Aztecs bounced back after being dominated by Brown in an 82-61 loss on Saturday.
The Matadors took the lead midway through the first half behind Diane. They dominated the first half, leading 32-21 after forcing SDSU to shoot only 28.1 percent overall, including 13.3 percent from the 3-point line.
“I thought we played well offensively in the first half,” Dutcher said. “I demanded they share the ball. We could not make a 3 the first half, but they were all the shots I wanted created. In the second half, when the 3s weren’t going, we went inside and they produced in there.”
Cal State Northridge: The Matadors showed more energy and enthusiasm than the Aztecs before the home team came on strong in the second half to win for the fifth straight time in the series.
San Diego State: The Aztecs shot much better in the second half, going 53.3 percent overall and 60 percent from the 3-point line. They have followed each of their last 10 home losses with a victory.
Cal State Northridge hosts Yale on Saturday night.
San Diego State opens Mountain West Conference play at Boise State on Saturday night.