College Basketball Nation: 2011 NCAA Bears-Aztecs



TUCSON, Ariz. -- Northern Colorado was game, but it just didn't have enough to keep up with San Diego State for 40 minutes.

The second-seeded Aztecs asserted themselves in the second half and rolled to the program's first NCAA tournament victory with a 68-50 victory over the Bears in a West Regional second-round game.

The Aztecs believe this will be the first of many. Perhaps even many this month.

Turning point: A 3-pointer from Devon Beitzel cut San Diego State's lead to 35-32 with 16:03 remaining. Then the Aztecs asserted themselves with a 16-3 run over the next eight minutes and coasted home. The key player was guard James Rahon, who connected on three treys during the run.

Key player: When two players gets get double-doubles, things are good. Kawhi Leonard scored 19 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, while Billy White chipped in 14 points and 12 boards. Northern Colorado really didn't have anyone to match up with these two powerful players.

Key stat: Northern Colorado needed to hit 3s to win, but San Diego State connected on 9-of-23 (39.1 percent) from behind the arc, while the Bears were just 8-of-22 (36.4 percent).

Miscellaneous: The Aztecs had 15 offensive rebounds compared to nine for the Bears, and won the overall battle on the boards 45-33. ... San Diego State had just four turnovers, so just five points from point guard D.J. Gay certainly doesn't tell the story. ... San Diego State had 14 second-chance points; Northern Colorado had just five.

What's next: Second-seeded San Diego State advances to take on No. 7 Temple, which beat Penn State 66-64, on Saturday.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- San Diego State is a threat for the Final Four. It's got backcourt and frontcourt balance. It's athletic and plays tough defense.

Northern Colorado is making its first NCAA tourney appearance. It went 4-24 four years ago. Apologies to the Bears, but they are mostly a one-man team that looks to 2-guard Devon Beitzel, who accounts for nearly 30 percent of his team's scoring.

But the second-seeded Aztecs and the 15th-seeded Bears do share one thing: neither has won an NCAA tournament game.

The overwhelming odds are it will be San Diego State, which is 0-6 all-time in the tournament. But you never know. The Aztecs would be advised to hold off on showcasing their "Duke strut" just yet.

"We really haven't proven anything yet," forward Billy White said. "We haven't won a tournament game."

And there is this detail. In 2008, Northern Colorado won at San Diego State, and the Aztecs home crowd, which has garnered so much attention lately for their love-affair with their team, booed them off the floor.

"It didn't feel good at all," guard D.J. Gay said. "It's something that I'll probably remember the rest of my life."

Of course, a lot has changed since then. Few doubt the Aztecs these days. They showcase an up-tempo offense and play great defense. They have one of the best frontcourt trios in the nation with Kawhi Leonard, White and Malcolm Thomas along with a ball-protecting senior point guard, Gay, through which everything flows.

Some teams have had success dropping back into a zone, clogging the lane and forcing San Diego State to shoot from the perimeter. But the Bears are a mostly man-to-man team, so if they opt for a zone they'll be out of their, er, comfort zone.

The most obvious plan for the Bears is to slow the game down, protect the ball and make a bunch of 3-pointers.

"We can't get into a running game with these guys," Northern Colorado forward Chris Kaba said. "We've got to make sure we take care of the ball. I think the biggest thing that has been drilled into us this week is patience offensively."

Which means figuring out ways to get scoring opportunities for Beitzel, who averages 21.4 points per game.

"We call Beitzel 'Little Jimmer' because he shoots the ball every time he gets the ball," SDSU guard Jamaal Franklin said.

"Jimmer," of course, is BYU scoring sensation Jimmer Fredette, who scored 43 and 25 points in regular-season wins over San Diego State, its only defeats this season.

Beitzel isn't Fredette, but he's a redshirt senior whose seen plenty of highs and lows as the Bears have built their program. He and his teammates wouldn't be blamed if they played like they were just happy to be here. But he insisted that's not the case.

"Our mentality is going there with a chip on our shoulder and doing whatever we can to win," Beitzel said. "I mean, we've been undersized and we definitely don't have the most athletic team. But we fight every game. And we don't give up."

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