FULLERTON, Calif. — Georgia brought the experience. San Diego State brought some fresh faces.
The youngsters prevailed, staying steady down the stretch in a tight game.
Devin Watson scored 16 points and San Diego State closed the game on a 12-4 run to beat Georgia 75-68 on Friday night, sending the Aztecs into the title game of the Wooden Legacy.
“This year we just have a different vibe around us,” said Trey Kell, who added 13 points for the Aztecs. “We come together instead of everyone being nervous for the situation or trying to do it themselves. We got a lot of belief in each other.”
Matt Mitchell also 13 for the Aztecs (5-1). He and fellow freshmen Jalen McDaniels and Jordan Schakel combined to score 27 points.
Neither team led by more than eight points in the second half, a back-and-forth scoring fest with little defense.
Turtle Jackson and Yante Maten each scored 17 points for the Bulldogs (4-1), who led by 12 in the first half. Jackson set a career high in points for the second straight game and also made a career-best four 3-pointers.
Jackson’s 3-pointer put Georgia ahead 64-63, its last lead. The Aztecs answered with the 12-4 run, including nine in a row to end the game. Five different players scored in the spurt, with Mitchell hitting a 3-pointer and McDaniels making a pair of free throws.
“We know we all have the ability to score,” Kell said. “We also know we don’t have to take games over.”
San Diego State shot just 30 percent in the first half, and narrowly outrebounded the Bulldogs 48-44.
Rayshaun Hammonds missed two 3-pointers for Georgia, and preseason SEC player of the year Maten missed a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left.
Maten received two fouls for elbowing Schakel during San Diego State’s 18-3 run that put the Aztecs ahead 31-27. The first was a flagrant; the second was a technical after Maten’s elbow to Schakel’s nose drew blood. Maten briefly sat down after the second one before returning to make six straight free throws and help the Bulldogs close out the half leading 34-33.
Georgia coach Mark Fox said the referees initially called a common foul on Maten and it was changed to a flagrant upon review after a whistle for the first foul.
San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher asked the referees to review both plays.
“They just explained, ‘You’re going to get two free throws and the ball,’ and I said, ‘That’s great,'” he said.
Maten made all eight of his free throws for the Bulldogs, and he is 37 of 38 for the season. He missed his only one in a 64-57 victory over Cal State Fullerton on Thursday.
San Diego State came into the tournament averaging 84 points and has scored at least 68 points in its first seven games. That’s quite a change from last season when the Aztecs averaged 68.5 points and scored over 80 points just four times.
TWICE AS NICE
San Diego State could become the first team to win the Wooden Legacy twice. The Aztecs’ first title came in 2013, when they beat Marquette 67-59.
Apparent food poisoning is affecting some of the teams in the tournament, including Georgia.
“It started about 2 o’clock in the morning for several members of our team, but we still have to play better,” Fox said.
San Diego State’s Malik Pope got a technical — his third foul in five minutes — for swearing within earshot of the referee and sat down in the first half. He scored four of the Aztecs’ first six points to start the second half. Pope finished with nine points, his second straight game in single digits after scoring in double-figures in a career-best seven straight games extending to last season.
Georgia plays No. 21 Saint Mary’s for third place on Sunday.
San Diego State moves into the title game against Washington State on Sunday.