No. 25 San Diego State coughed up a 16-point, second-half lead, then rallied to close the game with six points in the final 44 seconds to post a 63-62 win over visiting UC Irvine on Saturday night.
San Diego State (8-2) — playing without standout forward Jaedon LeDee, who was a late scratch due to an elbow injury — went ahead 42-26 early in the second half.
But reserve Jay Pal’s dunk for two of his team-high 15 points with 15:14 remaining in regulation marked the Aztecs’ last field goal for a stretch lasting longer than 13 minutes.
UC Irvine (6-4) went on runs of 13-2 and 14-2 during the San Diego State field-goal drought. Justin Hohn, who scored a game-high 16 points, made the last of his four 3-pointers with 59 seconds remaining to give the Anteaters a 62-57 lead.
A Pal free throw and a Darrion Trammell 3-pointer cut the Aztecs’ deficit to one point, then Reese Waters came away with a steal. Trammell attempted another 3-pointer that rimmed off, but Pal grabbed the offensive rebound and found Micah Parrish for what proved to be the game-winning basket with 11 seconds remaining.
Hohn’s would-be game-winning 3-pointer on the other end was no good.
Parrish finished with 14 points and Waters recorded 11 points and 12 rebounds. Trammell scored 10 points off the bench.
Derin Saran collected 14 points, six rebounds and four steals off the bench for UC Irvine. Pierre Crockrell II scored 10 points.
UC Irvine shot 23 of 57 from the floor, including 7 of 21 from 3-point range, to just 18 of 47 from the floor for San Diego State. The Aztecs went 8-for-20 from beyond the arc and shot 19 of 22 from the free-throw line compared to the Anteaters’ 9-for-15 showing.
After trailing in the early going, San Diego State took a 33-24 advantage into the break thanks in large part to eight points from both Pal and Parrish.
The late comeback denied UC Irvine a second road win over a top 25 opponent this season after the Anteaters knocked off Southern California on Nov. 14.