FORT COLLINS, Colo. – D.J. Gay sank a jumper with 1.8 seconds left to lift seventh-ranked San Diego State past Colorado State 56-54 Wednesday night.
Gay, who has a reputation for coming through in the clutch, then hauled in the long inbounds pass as the buzzer sounded and his teammates mobbed him.
Travis Franklin's driving layup for Colorado State had tied it with 10.1 seconds remaining.
James Rahon scored 15 points and Kawhi Leonard posted his 32nd career double-double with 12 points and 15 boards for the Aztecs (22-1, 7-1 Mountain West), who got quite a scare from the Rams (15-7, 5-3).
Colorado State might have pulled off the upset had they not been so off-the-mark from the free throw line, where they were just 14-of-22.
Andy Ogide scored 18 points and pulled down a dozen rebounds for the Rams, who haven't beaten a top-25 opponent since upsetting 25th-ranked Air Force in the 2004 Mountain West Conference postseason tournament.
Ogide's two free throws tied it at 52 with 4:21 remaining following back-to-back baskets by Franklin. Billy White's short jumper put San Diego State back on top 54-52 two minutes later after a series of stops by both teams.
It stayed that way until the final minute.
The Rams got the ball back underneath San Diego State's basket with 34 seconds remaining, and following a timeout, Franklin tied it as the crowd went crazy, then quickly fell silent as Gay's shot fluttered the net.
The Rams led by six five minutes into the second half thanks to a 16-2 run spanning the break, but they missed three free throws in that span that could have put the Aztecs in a bigger hole than 39-33.
Billy White ended the Aztecs' drought with a hook shot and Rahon swished a 3-pointer from the right elbow before Leonard fed Malcolm Thomas down low for a bucket that put San Diego State ahead 40-39.
Leonard sank three baskets and Rahon raced from one end to the other for a layup and then sank two free throws to put the Aztecs ahead 50-44 with eight minutes left.
The Rams trailed 31-29 at halftime and would have had the lead had they not misfired so much from the free throw line. They missed six of their 11 freebies in the first half but still had a chance to take the lead into the locker room when Dorian Green missed badly on a hurry-up 3-pointer and, following an offensive rebound, Adam Nigon threw the ball right to Aztecs big man Brian Carlwell in the paint in the closing seconds.
The Aztecs, who have beaten the Rams eight straight times and are 13-1 against Colorado State since 2005-06, won their 31st straight game against a non-ranked opponent.