Not many expected offense to carry No. 8 seed San Diego State to victory. Some strong perimeter shooting in the first half helped the Aztecs jump out to a halftime lead they would never relinquish in a 76-64 win over No. 9 seed St. John’s on Friday night in the South Regional.
Using seven first-half 3-pointers — two of them banked in — San Diego State (26-8) raced to a 40-33 halftime lead and held the Red Storm at a comfortable distance for much of the second half. Much was made of St. John’s playing without starting center Chris Obekpa, who was suspended right before the NCAA Tournament, but the surprising perimeter shooting of San Diego State was more of an early issue than interior defense.
J.J. O’Brien paced the Aztecs with 18 points while Dwayne Polee II had 15 points on 5-for-7 3-point shooting after making only 15-for-59 during the 2014-15 season. Matt Shrigley (12 points) and Skylar Spencer (10 points) also finished in double-figures for San Diego State.
A depleted Red Storm also ran out of gas a bit in the second half and couldn’t keep up with athleticism of the Aztecs. The loss of Obekpa clearly altered St. John’s ability to rebound and protect the rim as the game wore on. Sir’Dominic Pointer ended his strong senior season with 21 points and 10 rebounds while D’Angelo Harrison added 18 points and nine rebounds.
San Diego State now advances to face No. 1 seed Duke on Sunday in the Round of 32. Many believe that the Aztecs are tough matchup for the Blue Devils and it should be one of the more intriguing games of the round. If San Diego State can hit some perimeter shots like they did on Friday, they’re a really dangerous team.