SPOKANE -- It has become one of March’s enduring certainties: A fourth- or fifth-seeded team registers a victory over New Mexico State somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
The latest was Thursday night at Spokane Arena, as fourth-seeded San Diego State won 73-69 in overtime over the 13th-seeded Aggies. Before that came 2007 and 2010, when fourth-seeded Texas and then fifth-seeded Michigan State defeated New Mexico State, also in Spokane. Toss in the loss to fourth-seeded Indiana in 2012 in Portland, and the Aggies have every reason to hate this part of the country.
If New Mexico State’s loss was to be expected, the same could be said for the way the Aztecs won. In this game, like many before it, San Diego State relied on the odd formula of waiting until the last possible moment to close out a game then doing the bare minimum to accomplish that task.
WATCH: New Mexico State’s Kevin Aronis hits a three to send it to overtime
The game would never have been close in the second half if not for a 2-for-13 shooting stretch by San Diego State that allowed New Mexico State back in to the game. It would not have gone into overtime had the Aztecs not committed a turnover with 15 seconds left. Nor would Aggies guard Kevin Aronis have tied the score with his three-pointer from the top of the key had San Diego State rebounded his first miss from beyond the arc.
Senior guard Xavier Thames finished with 23 points and made three shots during a vital 7-for-9 shooting spurt in the second half that slowed an Aggies rush, but beyond him San Diego State struggled offensively, including 6 of 17 on three-point attempts. It was a lackluster performance that did little to quell the concerns that tailed the team into the NCAA Tournament, chiefly: Can the Aztecs score enough to advance against good teams?
An answer will surely come Saturday against 12th-seeded North Dakota State, which upset fifth-seeded Oklahoma earlier in the day. Despite the Bison’s low profile, they led the nation in field goal percentage (50.9%), and shot 52.9% against the Sooners. They are balanced and disciplined, with a real chance at victory. In short, they are not New Mexico State, and for that reason the Aztecs might want to find a new formula and fast.
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