The Aztecs are one of the nation's elite defenses and the Bison, one of the elite offenses. Both like to play at around the same, slow pace. So, the Bison aren't the kind of team that can run the Aztecs' defense out of the gym.
That's unfortunate, because it made this game a real snoozer.
Taylor Braun, who took a beating in North Dakota State's round of 64 win over Oklahoma, didn't get off easy in this one, either. It took less than three minutes for Braun to become reacquainted with the floor. He and Skylar Spencer met in the air as Braun was going for a lay-up. The Bison fans wanted a foul but none was called. Spencer took the worst of it and had to leave the game for a couple of minutes. Not much later as Braun was running down the court, Dwayne Polee ran into him from behind. Polee's knee smashed into Braun's tailbone.
The Aztecs defense got to Braun, who shot had just three points on 1-10 shooting in the half. It wasn't just Braun who struggled, the Bison shot a paltry 8-28 from the field for 23 first half points.
San Diego State wasn't much better on the offensive end, though they're not a good offensive team like the Bison.
Xavier Thames led the way with 16 points, over half of the team's first half total, but it took 12 shots for him to get that. Dwayne Polee was the only efficient offensive player for the Aztecs. His 7 points off the bench came on 3-4 shooting.
The second half was just as painfully slow. A frequently employed full-court press seriously disrupted the North Dakota State offense. The Bison had a hard time getting the ball into the frontcourt but an even harder time getting the ball into the basket.
San Diego State's defense slowed the Bison in the first half and it absolutely shut them down in the second. Taylor Braun was missing lay-ups, badly. And his teammates weren't there to pick up the slack. Kory Brown led the team with 13 points, but nine of those came in the first half.
As the Bison's star faded, the Aztecs' grew even brighter. Xavier Thames had a monster game. His 30 points, nearly half of the Aztecs total of 63, helped turn some of the neutral fans in the building away from the Bison. Doug Gottlieb fell deeply in love. So much so that he leapt out of his chair when a second half Thames jumper fell through the net.
In addition to accounting for 48% of his team's scoring, Thames' assists resulted in 13 points. 43 of the 63 points were either scored by Thames or came off his assists.
While the lead eventually grew to 20 in the final minute, the Bison trailed by single digits for most of the game. It was only in the final moments, when the desperation foul-fest took over, that the Aztecs' managed to grow a comfortable lead.
The clock struck midnight for the Cinderella Bison 40.9 seconds early. Head Coach Saul Phillips emptied his bench, down 20, to allow reserves to see some NCAA Tournament action.