Spokane, WA (SportsNetwork.com) - A couple of teams weary from overtime victories in the second round of the NCAA Tournament get back to the hardwood today, as the San Diego State Aztecs clash with the North Dakota State Bison in West Regional action at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena.
The Bison, the 12th seed in the region, figured to have their hands full against Oklahoma on Thursday, but NDSU refused to go away quietly as the meeting went to overtime before the underdogs claimed the 80-75 victory. In addition to being the first-ever NCAA Tournament win for the Bison, it also marked the first for the program against a Big 12 Conference foe in the Division I era.
In addition, NDSU also notched just the third win ever against an opponent in the AP Top-25, with the Sooners having been the 21st team in the land coming into the week.
After the Bison went to overtime, so too did San Diego State versus New Mexico State, with the Aztecs eventually pulling out the victory by a score of 73-69. The win was the seventh in the last eight games for SDSU, the lone setback coming in the Mountain West Conference Tournament title game versus New Mexico (64-58). Poetically for the Aztecs, UNM was defeated by Stanford in the second round of the tourney on Friday afternoon.
The Aztecs have won all three previous meetings between the programs, the most recent of those coming by a score of 86-69 back in 1971 at the San Diego Sports Arena. The winner this time around heads to Anaheim and the Sweet 16 to face off against the survivor of the Gonzaga/Arizona battle.
The top player in the Summit League this season, Taylor Braun was off his game against Oklahoma on Thursday, which should have been reason enough to accept an NDSU loss, but his teammates more than made up for his lackluster effort. Braun, who shot only 3-of-11 from the floor and finished with 11 points and six rebounds, ended up fouling out and watching from the sidelines in overtime. Lawrence Alexander carried the load as he tallied 28 points and eight rebounds, followed by TrayVonn Wright and Marshall Bjorklund with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Also having a major impact was Carlin Dupree who posted four straight points in the overtime session.
Braun, who has fouled out only one other time this season, continues to be the centerpiece for the offense, from his 18.0 ppg to a team-best 119 assists over 31 appearances. Bjorklund, one of the nation's top shooters from the floor at 63.4 percent, is credited with another 13.4 ppg, yet for some reason the big man is pulling down only 4.3 rpg, which is less than both Braun (5.5 rpg) and Wright who supplements his 5.2 rpg with 11.6 ppg.
San Diego State led by as many as 14 points in the first half, one less after the break and five points with only 31 seconds left in regulation, but the Aztecs were pushed to overtime before they could shut the door on New Mexico State Thursday night. It was a close call, but SDSU managed to extends its win streak to 119 in a row when leading a game with five minutes left in regulation.
Xavier Thames, the MWC Player of the Year, tallied a game-high 23 points and handed out five assists, followed by Dwayne Polee who again gave the squad a lift off the bench with 15 points and six boards. Josh Davis recorded a double-double with 10 points and a game-high 14 boards, while Skylar Spencer accounted for six boards, four blocks and four steals after failing to attempt even a single field goal.
Polee is playing only 17.3 minutes per game, exclusively as a backup, yet he is now fourth on the scoring list with 8.2 ppg. At the top of the chart is Thames with his 17.0 ppg, to go along with 110 assists, while Winston Shepard accounts for another 12.0 ppg as the only other double-digit scorer this late into the season.