SPOKANE, Wash. — Senior point guard Xavier Thames scored five of his 23 points in overtime, leading San Diego State to a 73-69 triumph over New Mexico State late Thursday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Forward Dwayne Polee II sank three of four free throws in the final 6.8 seconds for San Diego State’s final points. Polee finished with 15 points.
The Aztecs (30-4), the fourth seed in the West Region, advance to Saturday action at the Spokane Arena against No. 12 seed North Dakota State (26-6). The Bison defeated No. 5 seed Oklahoma 80-75 in overtime earlier Thursday.
Thames, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, scored three consecutive Aztecs baskets after the Aggies (26-10) pulled within two midway through the second half. However, a Thames turnover led to guard Kevin Aronis’ game-tying 3-pointer for New Mexico State with 5.4 seconds left in regulation. The score remained 60-60 when Thames missed a runner in traffic at the horn.
The game, a ragged affair at times, saw New Mexico State make just 12 of 20 free throws. The Aztecs sank 21 of 27 free throws to make up for 39.7 percent shooting from the field. The Aggies shot 40 percent, including 51.7 percent after halftime following a 30.8 percent effort in the first half.
New Mexico State guard Daniel Mullings, the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, scored 16 of his 18 points after halftime. Teammate Sim Bhullar, a 7-foot-5, 355-pound center, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds after playing just eight minutes in the first half due to three fouls. Bhullar scored just two points in the opening half.
San Diego State forward Josh Davis totaled 10 points and 14 rebounds.
The loss was New Mexico State’s eighth straight in the NCAA Tournament, dating back to 1993.
The Aztecs led 32-20 at the half.
San Diego State shot 38.5 percent in the half. The Aztecs sank nine of 10 free throws, compared to three of seven for New Mexico State. The Aggies outrebounded the Aztecs 19-18 despite Bhullar’s limited action.
NOTES: San Diego State senior PG Xavier Thames, the Mountain West Conference player of the year, played at nearby Washington State his freshman year. Washington State is the host school of the second- and third-round games in Spokane. … Sim Bhullar’s younger brother, 7-foot-3, 335-pound freshman center Tanveer, is redshirting with the Aggies. … Attendance at the two-game evening session was 10,962.
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