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Aztecs Overtaken on Late 3-Pointer : Tennessee’s Greg Bell Scores Winner in Tournament Final

Times Staff Writer

Greg Bell completed an amazing second-half shooting performance by making a 21-foot basket with 17 seconds remaining to give No. 19 Tennessee a 77-75 victory over San Diego State Wednesday night for the championship of the McDonald’s men’s basketball tournament.

It was the sixth 3-point field goal of the half for Bell, who scored 22 of his game-high 25 points in the final 20 minutes.

Bell’s heroics wiped out a spirited SDSU comeback that had the crowd of 4,857 at the San Diego Sports Arena cheering for what seemed until the final seconds to be the Aztecs’ third upset of a Top 20 team in its 1 1/4 seasons under Coach Jim Brandenburg. SDSU beat Brigham Young and New Mexico last season.

The Aztecs led, 75-72, before Bell scored a layup and was fouled with 35 seconds left. Bell missed the free throw that could have tied it, but after SDSU guard Bryan Williams missed the front of a 1-and-1 with 25 seconds left, Bell got another chance.

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He set up on the right side and swished the winning 3-pointer.

SDSU (4-3) had a chance to tie, but Michael Best’s 18-footer with five seconds left hit nothing but air. Tennessee’s Clarence Swearengen grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 3 seconds left. He missed the front of the 1-and-1, and the Aztecs’ Mitch McMullen rebounded, but his outlet pass ended up in the hands of the Vols’ Ian Lockhart at midcourt.

The 25 points were a season high for Bell, who came off the bench to provide the Vols (6-1) with the second-half spark they needed. Bell did for the Vols in the second half what forward Dyron Nix had done for them in the first.

Nix scored 19 of his 24 points before halftime but was held without a field goal in the final 25:54. He also had 12 rebounds.

McMullen led the Aztecs with 22 points and 12 rebounds.

Nix was unstoppable in the first 10 minutes, scoring 16 points. He hit from 3-point range, on short, turnaround jumpers and at the free-throw line. His early burst helped the Volunteers to their biggest first-half lead, 38-25 with 7:18 left.

But Nix cooled in the later stages of the half, and he was shut out the final 5:54 after his 12-foot turnaround jumper made it 40-28. That gave the Aztecs the opening they needed.

After Swearengen completed a 3-point play for a 45-33 lead at 2:46, the Aztecs scored the next six points to close to within 45-39 on Rodney Jone’s layin off Dana Jackson’s steal with 12 seconds left.

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Tennessee ended the half with a 46-39 lead after Bell made the front of a 1-and-1 with three seconds to play.

The Aztec comeback was staged despite the absence of Williams, who left with 8:08 to play in the half to have a cut lip stitched and did not return until 15:16 was left in the game.

The Aztecs started the second half just where they left off, scoring the first 13 points to take a 52-46 lead with 16:29 left, as the Vols turned the ball over three times and missed their first three shots.

Tennessee did not score until Bell made a 3-pointer at 16:12. But the Vols quickly recovered, creeping within one point at 56-55 on Nix’s free throw with 12:50 to play and tying the game at 62-62 on Bell’s 21-footer at 9:20.

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SDSU scored the next six points to take a 68-62 lead but the Vols answered with a 7-point run to regain the lead at 69-68 on Swearengen two free throws with 5:34 remaining.

The Aztecs played without one of three freshman reserves suspended Tuesday for what Brandenburg said were violations of team rules regarding drinking, fighting and curfew.

Eeric White, a 6-foot 6-inch swingman, missed his second game and has returned to his home in Las Vegas, Brandenburg said. No date has been set for his return, but Brandenburg said he could be back in time for the Aztecs’ next game, Tuesday against St. Francis of New York at the San Diego Sports Arena.

Jackson, a forward/center from Crystal Lake, Ill., and Alex Sund, a center from Golden, Colo., were both in uniform Wednesday.

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In the first game, Alabama Birmingham defeated Hardin-Simmons, 72-50, for third place.


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