SAN DIEGO — Either something has gotten into the San Diego State basketball players or some obvious math failed to get through to them.
The Aztecs, winners of only one game prior to the start of this weekend's Texaco Star Classic, took nationally-recognized South Carolina, winners of all but one of its contests, into double overtime before finally bowing out, 71-69, in the championship game late Saturday night in front of 2,445 in the San Diego Sports Arena.
Joe Rhett, the tournament most valuable player from South Carolina (6-1) who had a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds , made an eight-foot jump shot with eight seconds left in the second five-minute extra period to finally settle things.
Rhett scored five of the Gamecocks' eight points in the second overtime.
Tony Clark, in only his second game back after sitting out one season upon transferring from the University of Arizona, led the Aztecs (2-6) with 21 points, but he fouled out with 29 seconds left in the first overtime.
SDSU center Joe McNaull also played well despite early foul problems.
Both teams missed some terrific opportunities in both overtime periods, but nonetheless remained in the game.
It would have been tough for either team to lose.
South Carolina had two 6-0 runs in the second half, but other than those, it was basket-for-basket after Clark sank a basket with 14:32 left to tie it, 34-34.
Twenty points later for both teams, including two NBA-range three-point baskets by Clark, and there was less than a minute to play.
South Carolina's Chris Leso broke the deadlock on an inside basket with 44 seconds left.
After both teams took timeouts, Clark was fouled in the lane by Jamie Watson and sank both free throws to make it 56-56 with 25 seconds left.
South Carolina missed two shots then fumbled the ball away as time expired in regulation.
After trailing for most of the first half, SDSU took its first lead since, 5-4, with an 8-0 run near the end of the half and went into the locker room with a 31-28 cushion.
South Carolina had built an eight-point lead, 25-17, with 7:57 left and threatened to separate even further, but the Aztecs rebounded with two free throws by Robert Ringo and a 15-foot shot by Courtie Miller.
After an offensive rebound and basket by the Gamecock's Chris Leso, SDSU made its run.
Point guard Virgil Smith made his first three-point shot of the season with 5:36 left and Clark followed with another three-pointer 35 seconds later to tie the game, 27-27. Nelson Stewart's layup off a nifty assist by Smith gave the Aztecs the edge at 3:20 and they increased that to 31-28 when Miller ended the first-half scoring with a pair of free throws at 1:21.
SDSU made only 11 of 28 shots in the half, but that was one better than the Gamecocks, who also attempted 28. JoJo English (12 points) was the only player on either team in double-figure scoring. Miller (eight), Clark (seven) and McNaull (six) led the Aztecs.
With his sixth point, McNaull surpassed the 137 points he scored last year as a freshman.
McNaull, English, Rhett, George Washington's Bill Brigham and Florida A&M's DeLon Turner were named to the all-tournament team.
For McNaull, who made the team last year as a freshman, he joined San Diego State's Kim Goetz (1977, '78), Steve Malovic ('77, '78), Zack Jones ('80, '81) and Michael Cage ('80, 82) as the only two-time selections.
George Washington 71, Florida A&M 65--A couple of big guys--George Washington center Bill Brigham and Florida A&M forward DeLon Turner--put on a terrific show in the consolation game. Brigham scored 26 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, and added three assists and two steals. He made seven of 14 from the field and 12 of 15 from the free-throw line.
Turner had 14 points, 18 rebounds and two assists and made seven of nine field goals and 10 of 10 free throws, which tied a tournament record for best percentage in a game.
George Washington (5-2), which trailed by as many as eight points in the first half, led for most of the second half. But Florida A&M (3-6) rallied to within two, 67-65, with 23 seconds left. The Colonials responded with two free throws from Alvin Pearsall (18 points) with 14 seconds left and a layup from Mark Withers (seven points) at the buzzer.
Next year's SDSU Texaco Star Classic will feature the University of Texas, Washington State and Eastern Washington. . . . Aztec point guard Virgil Smith, a junior transfer from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, turned 25 on Friday.