San Diego State holds off Charleston, ending Mountain West’s length NCAA tournament losing streak

The Mountain West’s NCAA tournament losing streak has finally come to an end.

San Diego State, the No. 5 seed in the South region, knocked off No. 12 seed College of Charleston in a defensive struggle in the first round Thursday in Orlando.

In a 63-57 win, the Aztecs limited the Cougars to just 32.1% shooting from the field and made just enough plays down the stretch to move on to the Round of 32. With the win, San Diego State snapped a 10-game losing streak for the Mountain West that dated back to Nevada’s loss in the Sweet 16 back in 2018.

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It didn’t come easy.

San Diego State’s lead was just three points at halftime over Charleston, the champions of the Colonial Athletic Association who entered the NCAA tournament with a 31-3 record. SDSU had a three-point lead at halftime that grew as large as nine points during the second half.

Despite its offensive struggles, Charleston chipped away at the lead and managed to tie the score 53-53 with 3:27 to play. But San Diego State responded. Matt Bradley put the Aztecs back up two with a driving layup and then Micah Parrish followed that up with a 3-pointer.

From there, Charleston would twice cut the deficit to three points but could never quite get over the hump. San Diego State’s defense was too much to overcome as Charleston was limited to just 5-of-24 on 3-point shots.

The Aztecs weren’t much better offensively, but used their size advantage to connect on 50% of their two-point shots. Bradley led the way with 17 points and seven rebounds while Keshad Johnson, Aguek Arop and Jaedon LeDee pitched in eight points apiece.

While the Cougars’ remarkable season ends in a first-round exit, San Diego State will move on to face Furman, the No. 13 seed who upset No. 4 seed Virginia earlier Thursday.

For SDSU, it’s the program’s first NCAA tournament victory since 2015. Brian Dutcher took over for Steve Fisher following the 2017 season, but the Aztecs had previously been 0-3 under Dutcher’s watch.

Now that skid — along with the Mountain West’s — has come to an end.

San Diego State guard Matt Bradley (20) gets around Charleston guard Jaylon Scott (21) during the first half of an first-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)