Rushed Reactions: #4 San Diego State 73, #13 New Mexico State 69 (OT)

Posted by Kenny Ocker on March 21st, 2014


Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregionKenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is an RTC columnist and correspondent. He is covering the Spokane pods of the East and West regionals this week. He wrote this story after San Diego State’s 73-69 win Thursday night over New Mexico State.

Three Key Takeaways.

Sim Bhullar and His Aggie Friends

Sim Bhullar and His Aggie Friends Gave SDSU All It Wanted Tonight

  1. Overdosing on X. San Diego State leans heavily on its lone offensive play-maker, guard Xavier Thames, who made his return to the Inland Northwest after transferring over from Washington State (now hiring). The senior had 23 points on 6-of-17 shooting and played 43 of 45 minutes, aided in part by late fouls from New Mexico State as they chased the lead both in regulation and overtime. Thames is the only Aztec capable of getting into the lane with regularity, which could be problematic if this team runs across a lockdown defender in the upcoming rounds. The Aztecs only shot 39 percent from the field for the game; the Aggies shot 40 percent despite not being known for their field goal prowess.
  2. Big trouble ahead? San Diego State never trailed in the game, but still were taken to overtime by a New Mexico State team that trailed 32-20 at halftime and had its starting center, Sim Bhullar, pick up three fouls in the first half. They missed free throws, blew defensive assignments, dropped an inbounds pass, and gave up two clean looks to the Aggies’ Kevin Aronis for tying three-pointers at the end of regulation (the second of which he hit). With a North Dakota State team awaiting that has a similar interior presence but is coupled with much better outside shooting, Saturday will be another difficult test for the Aztecs.
  3. New Mexico State is built to win big in a small conference. The Aggies’ bruising, offensive-rebounding-reliant style of play is great against WAC schools, as evidenced by its four NCAA Tournament bids since 2010. But this was only the second of those games that ended within 10 points (a 70-67 loss to Michigan State in Spokane in 2010 was the other). Their plodding big men are vulnerable to major-conference athletes and their guards oftentimes aren’t good enough perimeter shooters to punish teams for overloading on their big men. Or their INCREDIBLY LARGE MAN, the 7’5” Bhullar.

Star of the Game: Xavier Thames, San Diego State. His 23 points and five assists both led all players; he also had two blocked shots despite playing point guard.

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Who Won The Week? Louisville, Marcus Smart, Michigan and The Citadel…

Posted by Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) on February 28th, 2014

wonweekWho Won the Week? is a regular column that outlines and discusses three winners and losers from the previous week of hoops. The author of this column is Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker), a Spokane-based sportswriter best known for his willingness to drive (or bike!) anywhere to watch a basketball game.

We’ve got more to get to here than usual, so we’ve got a special extended-yet-abbreviated edition of WWTW on tap today.

WINNER: Louisville

Russ Smith won Louisville's game over Cincinnati on Saturday with a late jumper. (AP)

Russ Smith won Louisville’s game over Cincinnati on Saturday with a late jumper. (AP)

Your defending national champions – remember them? – are rolling at just the right time in the season. They went into Cincinnati and handed the Bearcats their first home loss of the season Saturday, 58-57, with a Russ Smith dagger – remember him? – then followed that up by blowing out woebegone Temple 88-66 on Thursday.

Sophomore Cardinals forward Montrezl Harrell thrived this past week, as he has since the dismissal of Chane Behanan, scoring 21 points in both games. Going forward, the Cardinals have games left at Memphis and SMU, followed by a home game against Connecticut. Though they’re tied with Cincinnati at the top of the American and on a seven-game winning streak, we’ll know much more about Louisville by the time the conference tournament rolls around.

(Related winners: Smith; Harrell. Related losers: Cincinnati, which squandered its chance at an outright AAC championship by losing at home; Temple, which had its first 20-loss season in school history thanks to Louisville.)

LOSER: Saint Louis

The Billikens, which had been one of America’s last four teams undefeated in conference, took one of the most befuddling losses of the whole season, falling 71-64 on Thursday to a Duquesne team that had won four Atlantic 10 games in Jim Ferry’s two seasons in Pittsburgh. What had been one of the nation’s top 10 shooting defenses gave up an effective field goal rate of 50.7 percent, including 14-0f-18 shooting and 7-of-9 three-pointers by Dukes guards Micah Mason and Jerry Jones. And against one of the nation’s 10 worst defenses vs. three-point shooting, Saint Louis only made 4-of-23 shots from beyond the arc. The Billikens have a top-five defense nationally according to, but their offense ranks 169th in efficiency. Then again, defense wins championships, right?

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