HOUSTON — San Diego State’s sensational March Madness run ended in anticlimactic fashion on Monday with a 76-59 championship game loss to the UConn Huskies, who put the finishing touches on one of the finest NCAA Tournament runs in recent memory. The Aztecs became just the latest team to lose — and lose big — to a UConn squad that won all 6 games by more than a dozen points.

Much like the Miami Hurricanes two nights prior — who admitted that playing, and losing to, UConn felt like running into a wall — SDSU seemed at peace with the loss after the game. And also like Hurricanes, the Aztecs accomplished more than they ever had before.

Here’s a look at some news and notes from one notable weekend in Houston …

A date with destiny

Before the game, SDSU’s Matt Bradley and Aguek Arop could not shake off the coincidences that made this team feel like it had some weird mojo going on.

“It’s funny how you say that; I brought it up to AG (Arop) before the game, how everything just felt lined up for us to take it home,” Bradley said. “Playing Creighton again from last year, the Sweet 16 game with Kawhi and UConn, we were able to redeem that. There was so much going on in my head, it was like, this is meant to be.”

With the feeling of guidance on their side, even going against a Goliath on the other side, made the Aztecs feel like they had their slingshot.

“We had no doubt; we thought we could win this game,” Darrion Trammell said. “We thought we were a team of destiny, and that we deserved this. Just to be here, just to even have a shot at it, you have to be proud of that. It was such a blessing to get here. People don’t get here, at all. But they beat us. They’re a great team that played a great game.”

One imposing post pair

Speaking of Goliaths, UConn’s hulking duo of Adama Sanogo and scarcely used but ultra efficient freshman center Donovan Clingan struck fear into the Aztecs as they began studying the Huskies in preparation for Monday’s matchup.

“Those twin towers reminded me of Arizona, and we had trouble against them early in the season,” Bradley said  “That’s what I was thinking about going into the game. But the difference between them and Arizona is they have really good guard play and really good wing play. They have threats from anywhere. You try to help inside, they knock down a 3. You have to really be on point, and our offense needed to help, but it didn’t.”

While Sanogo had 17 points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes, Clingan had just 4 points in his 10 minutes of time, but he was a force on the defensive end. The 7-1 behemoth had 3 boards, 2 steals and a block and drew big praise from SDSU.

“To me, I thought he was the difference-maker in us not being able to score,” Velasquez said. “I felt like we actually had some success around the rim early, but to me, he was the defensive MVP. He did an unbelievable job of making it hard on us. We knew going into the game he’d be hard to score on. We learned that with (Charles) Bediako from Alabama and (Ryan) Kalkbrenner from Creighton. It’s hard to score on them 1-on-1. Those guys are elite defenders.”

Savoring the run

After the game, multiple Aztecs touched upon the resiliency that became the hallmark of the program, particularly during their Tournament run. SDSU came back from second-half deficits against Florida Atlanta, Creighton and Alabama in consecutive games, and they nearly bounced back on Monday night, cutting a 15-point lead to 5 before ultimately succumbing.

“This team is relentless,” Seiko said. “Relentless all season. We’ve been down at the end of halves, we know what it takes to come back in games like these.”

On Ye Aztec Men

With no professional sports team aside from the San Diego Padres in a city that ranks as the 8th-most populous in the country, the Aztecs are the 2nd-most popular team in town, and, at times, the most. Petco Park erupted on Friday night when Lamont Butler’s jumper sent SDSU into the championship game. So even though they lost, the Aztecs were eager to return home to celebrate their spectacular season with friends, fans and loved ones.

“It makes this loss a little less disappointing,” Darrion Trammell said. “We made the city proud. It’s bigger than us. To have the city of San Diego behind us all and to feel that love, that’s definitely going to help. They’re going to have open arms for us.”

One big shot

Speaking of Trammell, you should have seen his face turn sour when I asked about Jordan Hawkins’ 3-pointer that slammed shut a 14-4 SDSU run and sparked a 9-0 run for the Huskies.

“It was a big shot by a great player,” Trammell said after grimacing. “We knew what kind of player he was. We said if a team is going to beat us, make them beat us.”

UConn’s Newton figures in win

Either Hawkins or Sanogo had led UConn in scoring in every game since Feb. 4. But Tristen Newton had a game-high 19 points against the Aztecs, including an 8-for-8 night at the free-throw line.

“Before the game started, my coaches told me I need to be aggressive and look to this quarter to win the game,” Newton said. “First bucket, the spin move, take advantage of the mismatch because he was a smaller guard. The second one was somebody stole the ball, so credit to them, Andre found me on a 3. Really credit to my teammates and the spacing we had and the coaches for believing in me and telling me to be aggressive today.”

It could’ve been worse

An old joke for you: Two old New Yorkers sit down for a bowl of soup together. They both finish, and one asks the other, “What’d you think?” The first one says, “Eh, could’ve been better.” Then he asks the other, “What did you think?” And the second one says, “Coulda been worse!”

That being said, I was absolutely floored when several SDSU players and coaches sounded almost downright giddy after the game to have cut UConn’s halftime lead to “only” 12. You don’t often hear people happy about being behind by a dozen. But, to be fair, the Aztecs probably should’ve been down double after their worst offensive showing since the middle of February, when they scored 23 1st-half points against Fresno State.

“For them to only be up 12 when we had one of our worst halves offensively, it was like, ‘Oh, we’re about to beat them,'” Bradley said. “If they did that against us, we’d be up 30. We were down 14 just the other day. We got it to 5 and they were on their heels, but they were a good team and we didn’t step up and make shots when we needed to.”

All smiles

SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher has two modes, really. Total exasperation with referees and a smile as wide as San Diego County. He’s as nice as they come in the rough-and-tumble world of college basketball. He’s a nice northern Midwesterner with a folksy, aww shucks side to him.

I was lucky enough to get the final question of him as the locker room was closing after the game. We go back to my freshman year at San Diego State in 2002, his 4th year with the program. I asked him about that huge smile that he had for much of the game.

“At the end of the day, it’s college basketball,” he said. “If you can’t embrace it and enjoy it, you’re in the wrong profession. There are times its frustrating and it’s a challenge, but when you’re on the biggest stage, the game you dream of being in, why wouldn’t you smile?”