The match-up between No. 4 seed San Diego State and No. 13 seed New Mexico State turned into a late-night nail biter as the Aztecs prevailed in overtime 73-69. This was a battle between coach Steve Fisher of San Diego State and one of his former assistant coaches, Marvin Menzies, and one of his former players, Aerick Sanders, who are now on staff at New Mexico State. It was a game no one deserved to lose nor wanted the other one to lose.
San Diego State has now won 119 straight games when holding a lead with 5:00 remaining. The 12-4 run by New Mexico State to end regulation definitely threatened the streak and pushed the teams to overtime. Every time the Aztecs looked like they would pull away, the Aggies found a way to keep it close.
Xavier Thames led the Aztecs with 23 points and at times was their only source of offense. But he wasn't perfect, shooting just 6-of-17, including 1-of-7 on three-point attempts.
Daniel Mullings had just two points in the first half but finished with 18 points for the game to lead the comeback effort for the Aggies.
The Aztecs dictated much of the action in the first half. They shot 40% compared to 31% for the Aggies. They also drew three early fouls on 7' 5" Center Sim Bhullar and Renaldo Dixon. The Aggies don't have the deep bench that the Aztecs do. Amazingly they played the game with just seven players.
Matt Shrigley provided some much needed offense late in the first half for San Diego State. He nailed two three-pointers in the final 1:25 before halftime to push the lead to 14 points. Tshilidzi Nephawe for the Aggies made a jumper to close out the first half, with the Aztecs up 32-20.
Bhullar was dominate at times in the second half for the Aggies. When he caught the ball around the rim, he was almost unstoppable. But foul trouble ultimately caught up with him in overtime, when he fouled out with 14 points, seven rebounds, two blocks and countless altered shots.
Three-point specialist Kevin Aronis made four three-pointers on the night for the Aggies. None was bigger than the one that sent them into overtime. He finished with 12 points. He was fouled on a three point shot in overtime. The foul was not called, the shot was not made, but the Aggies were awarded the ball anyway. In the end, the Aztecs had just enough to overcome the valiant effort of the Aggies.
Josh Davis was undersized to go up against the Aggies frontcourt, but he willed himself to 10 points and 14 rebounds. Dwayne Polee II made a huge impact, scoring 15 points off the bench, shooting 50% from the field and grabbing six rebounds. Winston Shepard was held scoreless in the first half on a poor shooting night, but he did add seven straight points for the Aztecs in the second half that helped keep the Aggies at bay.
New Mexico State shot over 1,000 free throws for the season compared to 828 for San Diego State. This was a rare game in which the Aggies shot fewer free throws than their opponent and shot a worse percentage. The Aztecs shot seven more free throws than the Aggies and managed to make more than the Aggies took.
The Aztecs never trailed. They were pushed to the limit. They bended, but they did not break.
Next up, San Diego State takes on North Dakota State on Saturday. North Dakota State got their first NCAA tournament victory in school history earlier in the day by defeating Oklahoma.