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San Diego State avoids early exit, holds off UAB


SPOKANE, Wash. -- — Jaedon LeDee dominated inside on the way to 32 points, Lamont Butler added 15 and No. 5 seed San Diego State held off 12th-seeded UAB 69-65 on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

A year after marching to the national title game, also as a No. 5 seed, the Aztecs saw a 12-point second-half lead disappear before putting together a late surge on the strength of their star 6-foot-9 forward to avoid a March Madness surprise in the East Region.

Quiet for most of the second half, LeDee scored on three straight possessions for the Aztecs (25-10) after UAB took a 56-53 lead. Butler hit a difficult fallaway, and LeDee climbed for an offensive rebound and was fouled with 1:01 left. LeDee hit both free throws to give SDSU a 66-63 lead, and he added two more foul shots with 20 seconds left.

UAB’s Efrem Johnson had a contested look at a tying 3-pointer with 8 seconds left, but it rimmed off, and Reese Waters’ free throw with 3 seconds remaining allowed the Aztecs a chance to exhale.

LeDee made 11 of 18 shots, was 9 of 10 at the free throw line and had eight rebounds. He topped 30 points for the fourth time this season and finished two short of his career high.

San Diego State will play either No. 4 seed Auburn or No. 13 seed Yale in the second round on Sunday.

Johnson led UAB (23-12) with 19 points, but was scoreless over the final nine minutes. The Blazers' leading scorer, Yaxel Lendeborg, got into early foul trouble trying to defend LeDee and finished with 11 points. He fouled out in the closing seconds.

Eric Gaines added 14 points for the Blazers, who fell in the opening round of the tournament for their second straight NCAA appearance. UAB lost two years ago to Houston in the first round, also as a No. 12 seed. This season, UAB joined the American Athletic Conference and unexpectedly won the league tournament.

UAB trailed 44-32 early in the second half before a 17-5 run gave the Blazers their first lead of the game and set up the tense closing minutes.


The Aztecs will be hoping for a favorable draw like they got last year, when they played No. 13 seed Furman in the second round after knocking off 12th-seeded Charlotte.


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