SAN DIEGO — At the buzzer ending regulation, a double pump, off-balance 18-foot jumper from the left wing by San Diego State guard Tony Ross bounced off the rim.
With four seconds to play in overtime, Rodney Hawkins missed a layup from the right side. And finally, a seven-foot bank shot by Ross from the left side rolled off the rim at the final buzzer.
That was how close San Diego State came to upsetting a good Rhode Island team in front of 1,799 fans at the San Diego Sports Arena Wednesday night.
Final score: Rhode Island 77, SDSU 76.
The Aztecs trailed by one point and had the ball with 31 seconds to play in overtime. Guard Bryan Williams held onto the ball a little longer than his coaches wanted, but then Ross threaded the needle on a pass to Hawkins, who missed the layup from the right side with four seconds remaining.
"I posted up and called for the ball," Hawkins said. "Just as I went up for the shot, a guy hit my arm. I thought I was fouled. I watched the ball roll off the rim. I saw it come to Tony. I was just frozen. It was isolation time. I thought when he shot it, it would go in."
Ross was wide open when he missed the short bank shot at the buzzer.
"We got two good shots to win it, and neither fell in," said Jim Brandenburg, the Aztec coach. "They weren't just good shots. They were great shots. We had a layup and a little bank shot. You can't do better than that."
In addition, Ross, Mitch McMullen and Caldin Rogers missed the front end of one-and-ones from the foul line in overtime.
San Diego State led, 76-75, on a layup by Hawkins with 1:44 to play in overtime, but Rhode Island forward Mergin Sina was fouled by Ross and made two free throws with 1:34 to play. Those were the final points of the game.
It was a game in which Ross, the Aztecs' leading scorer with a 17.1-point average, scored only 5 points and shot 1 for 7 from the field. It was the first time this season Ross did not score in double figures.
Hawkins, coming off a 23-point, 13-rebound performance against Dartmouth Monday, had a career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds in 44 minutes.
The Aztecs outshot the Rams, 53% to 34%, from the field and outrebounded them, 41-32. But Rhode Island made 30 of 40 free throws and committed 17 turnovers. SDSU made 22 of 29 and had 24.
SDSU (4-5) led, 38-36, at halftime and led by as many as seven points, 50-43, with 16:12 to play in regulation. But Rhode Island came back to tie it at 72 at the end of regulation.
That was a lot closer than most thought it would be. Brandenburg said Rhode Island, a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference, was probably one of the nation's top 25 teams. Rhode Island (6-1) had defeated Virginia and Providence and gave Temple--ranked in the Top 10--a tough game before losing, 75-66.
Was it a moral victory for the Aztecs?
"I'm never happy when we lose," Brandenburg said. "You can see that I'm upset."
Guard Carlton Owens shot only 5 of 21 from the field but led Rhode Island in scoring with 20 points. Tom Garick had 18, Kenny Green 14, John Evans 13 and Mergin Sina 12. . . . Outside of Rodney Hawkins' 24 points, the only other Aztec to score in double figures was Mitch McMullen with 13.