The North Dakota State University men’s basketball team fell to the San Diego State University Aztecs 63-44 in the third round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The magic the Bison had corralled in the second round win over the University of Oklahoma Sooners fell short against SDSU.
The Bison came out on fire to start the first half, shooting three for four from the field and grabbing a 7-2 lead. The Aztecs best offensive player, Xavier Thames, dropped two threes down on NDSU before the first media timeout, showing that he was going to be aggressive with his offense.
After the opening offensive spurt, both teams struggled to find offense. As expected, points were hard to come as teams did a great job at not allowing open looks at the bucket. Both teams pride themselves on defense and it showed in the first 12 minutes.
NDSU head coach Saul Phillips decided to bring in freshman Carlin Dupree earlier than he did on Thursday and it paid dividends. With NDSU up one, Dupree was on a fast break when he made a beautiful behind the back move, drew contact on the layup and finished to give NDSU an 18-15 advantage.
NDSU would get a field goal from Marshal Bjorklund at the 6:15 mark to go up 20-15. That was the last field goal of the half for the Bison as they saw the Aztecs go on a 15-3 run to end the first half, giving them a 30-23 lead at the break.
The Bison saw Dwayne Polee II go for seven points off the bench in the last five minutes of the half. Meanwhile, NDSU’s best offensive player senior Taylor Braun went 1-10 from the field. NDSU’s leading scorer at the half was sophomore Kory Brown.
The Bison started with the regular five at the beginning of the second half but a problem arose within the first three minutes of the half. With 17:06 to go in the game, TrayVonn Wright picked up his fourth personal foul and it appeared that it was an early dagger to the Bison’s chances in the Round of 32 against the Aztecs.
After the foul, SDSU would push the lead to 35-25, the largest lead for either team at that point in the game. The Bison would cut the lead down to five, but could not handle the play of Thames.
Thames had NDSU’s defense in the palm of his hand as the game progressed. Whether it was a floater in the lane or a drive and dish to an open shooter for three in the corner, Thames was the Aztec offense.
Head coach Steve Fisher took Thames out with just over 12 minutes to go in the game and at that point, Thames had accounted for 22 of the teams 42 points. It was an awesome display of offense. The Bison had no answer from him as he continued to come off screens and knock down mid-range jumpers.
The game fell apart for the Bison at the halfway point of the first half, as they couldn’t stop the Aztecs and couldn’t make any shots.
In the end, Thames 30 points to lead all scorers while NDSU’s leading scorer was Brown who had 13 points.
The Bison shot 31 percent from the field, 18 percent from three and leading scorer Braun ended his career with seven points on 2-14 shooting. Junior Lawrence Alexander was one for eight shooting.
The Bison ended the year with a 26-7 record overall, while the Aztecs moved on to the Sweet 16 to take on the winner of the University of Arizona versus Gonzaga University game.