It had to happen eventually. Spokane saw an upset in the first game of the day, a 93 point performance in the second and a nationally resonating upset in the third. So the nightcap, San Diego State from the Mountain West and New Mexico State from the WAC, lulled everyone to sleep.
San Diego State plays a slow, defensively oriented game. Well, wouldn't you know that's exactly what happened here. The Aztecs held the Aggies to one point per minute. Ten minutes into the half they had ten points, ten minutes later they had 20.
Sim Bhullar, the Aggies' 7-5 center, made his presence felt immediately. Josh Davis tried to drive and shoot over Bhullar, but the 6-8 Davis isn't quite as tall as the 7-5 Bhullar, so Davis' shot went as far as Bhullar's hand.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, that was arguable the best moment of the game.
Bhullar totaled two points on two shot attempts, one rebound, one block and three fouls in the first half. Tshilidzi Nephawe was by far the most active Aggie. With Bhullar spending much of the first half on the bench, the Aggies fed Nephawe in the post. He finished the half with a team high seven points on 3-9 shooting with five rebounds.
Neither team shot the ball well in the half. San Diego State's 38.5% is respectable only when compared to New Mexico State's 30.8%.
Coming out of the locker room the 10,962 fans in attendance were reminded both teams did in fact make the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies especially, which sure didn't look like a tournament team in the first, proved their worth early in the second. Down 14 points at the break, they cut the Aztecs' lead to six by the first media timeout. During that span, San Diego State scored five points.
Sim Bhullar's second half was nothing like his first. With 13:52 remaining he pulled the Aggies within one possession of the Aztecs, 40-38. A fast break as slow as molasses saw Bhullar move the ball to the hoop and Xavier Thames foul him in the act.
He finished the game with 14 points, on 6-9 shooting, and 7 rebounds.
So, San Diego State just went back it its old ways. Slow offense punctuated with threes and stout defense. It worked in the first half and it worked again in the second. New Mexico State's shots stopped falling. The Aztecs' shots fell and took a good chunk of shot clock through the hoop with them.
Until, the final minute. San Diego State learned first hand why you don't let teams hang around. These are NCAA Tournament teams, after all, so they're good. New Mexico State slowly chopped at the lead but it seemed the Aztecs were save, thanks to the late-game foul fest. But, a botched inbounds play with 12 seconds left handed the ball back to the Aggies.
Of course, they hit the three. Overtime.
It was all San Diego State in the extra period. When the Aggies tried to tie the game with a lay-up, Dwayne Polee was there for the athletic block. The next possession saw Sim Bhullar foul out and the Aggies' bench get a warning.
New Mexico State though, as everyone in Spokane had become accustomed (and possibly tired) to, hung around. But what happens when a team is close but behind, and time is running out? That team fouls. New Mexico State had serious foul trouble. Bhullar was already out and additionally three fifths of the players on the floor had four fouls.
Even then. New Mexico State wouldn't go away. And, San Diego State wouldn't stop missing free throws.
In the end, the high seed wins, 73-69.