SAN DIEGO — A tremendous three-point shooting performance by Tony Ross enabled San Diego State to hold off a frantic Texas Tech rally Monday night.
SDSU's sophomore guard hit six three-point shots in the first half and finished with a total of eight three-pointer for a game-high 24 points to lead the Aztecs to a 72-63 victory in the championship game of the Holiday Bowl tournament at the San Diego Sports Arena.
Ross scored a team-high 21 points in SDSU's first-round victory over Bucknell and was named the most valuable player of the tournament. Aztec forward Rodney Hawkins scored 13 points and had 14 rebounds Monday, to go along with his 18 points and 7 rebounds Sunday, and was also named to the all-tournament team.
It was the Aztecs' first victory in their tournament since 1981, when they defeated Temple, 75-64, and their third title in the 12-year history of the tournament. SDSU is 6-5 and has won three of its last four games.
SDSU led Texas Tech by 13 at halftime and quickly raised it to 18 points early in the second half and to 20 points (57-37) with 11:16 remaining. But Texas Tech guard Sean Gay scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to help rally the Red Raiders, who pressed and forced 13 SDSU turnovers in the second half.
Texas Tech scored nine straight points, capped when guard Jerry Mason (team-high 17 points) hit a three-pointer with 55 seconds left to make it 67-63.
Aztec guard Bryan Williams made both ends of a one-and-one with 47 seconds left to make it 69-63. Sam Johnson made one free throw and Hawkins hit two free throws to complete the scoring.
Hawkins and McMullen (12 points each) supplied a strong inside game for SDSU, and Williams had 11 points and 7 assists, but it was Ross who shot the Aztecs into the lead.
Ross, who has been in a shooting slump since the first weekend of the season, broke loose Monday night. He missed his first and last three-point attempts in the first half, but hit six straight in between to lead the Aztecs to a 39-26 halftime lead.
Ross, who entered the game shooting 42% from three-point range and only 41% on two-point attempts, hit 8 of 11 three-pointers attempts. He made four three-point shots from the right wing, three from the left wing and one from the top of the key.
While Ross had 18 in the first half from the outside, Hawkins scored eight points (4 of 4) from the inside.
The Aztecs hit 68% (15 of 22) from the field in the first half, including Ross' 6 of 8 from three-point range.
By comparison, Texas Tech shot 33% (9 of 27) from the field, including 4 of 10 three-pointers. Center Wes Lowe scored nine points to lead the Red Raiders in the first half.
The Aztecs trailed only once in the game, 5-4, after 4:21 had elapsed. The score was tied at 10-10 when SDSU went on a 10-3 scoring streak to take a 20-13 lead. Texas Tech crept back to 23-19, but the Aztecs outscored the Red Raiders, 16-7, in the final 6:11 of the half.
The second half belonged to the Aztecs until the Red Raiders almost ruined Ross' memorable night.
In addition to MVP Tony Ross and forward Rodney Hawkins of SDSU, the all-tournament team included Texas Tech guard Sean Gay, Fresno State forward Derrick Barden and Bucknell guard Mike Joseph. . . . A crowd of 3,290 fans attended Monday's championship game. . . . Bucknell overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat Fresno State, 66-56, in the consolation game Monday. That's 22 straight losses away from home over two seasons for Fresno State (3-6). Bucknell (6-3) made 28 of 32 free throws, and Fresno State made 11 of 15. Bucknell's Joseph scored 17 of his game-high 20 points in the second half. Joseph made 12 of 14 foul shots, 2 of 6 three-point shots and added 7 assists. Forward John Watson had 14 points, center Bo Heiden 12 and forward Greg Leggett and guard Ted Aceto 10 each. Center Mike Butts sat out the game with six stitches in his ring finger. Forward Mike Mitchell led Fresno State with 18 points, followed by center Derrick Barden's 13 and Jervis Cole's 12 points and 12 rebounds.