After 90 years as a college hoops program and no NCAA tournament victories, San Diego State left no doubt about getting into the win column.
Well, some doubt.
The Aztecs drummed 15 seed Northern Colorado 68-50 on Thursday, but only after the defense clamped down during the second half. Seven scoreless minutes will do that.
“This is a win for everybody that’s been associated with San Diego State,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. “And I need to go beyond our 12 years, for everybody that’s put on a San Diego State uniform or walked the halls there. We’ve got a lot of proud Aztecs today.”
Not that it’s a huge surprise. If the West’s No. 2 seed (33-2) is to live up to its seeding and reach the Elite Eight or even the Final Four, it’ll be because of its defense. Only Texas, Florida State and Duke can boast more efficient defenses. The athletic, long frontcourt of Malcolm Thomas, Billy White and Kawhi Leonard thrive at altering and blocking shots.
But guards Chase Tapley and D.J. Gay did their part Thursday. Tapley frsutrated UNC’s Devin Beitzel – the Big Sky player of the year and the Bears’ leading scorer – for much of the first half before Beitzel eventually got going from beyond the arc. He finished with 25 points.
“Relief? Kind of, but we’re not satisfied yet,” San Diego State guard D.J. Gay said. “We know we’re a very good team capable of making a run. This one feels good, but we win the next one, that one will feel a lot better.”
The Aztecs now turn their attention to 7-seed Temple, which beat Penn State in the final seconds on Thursday.
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