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San Diego State finds overdrive to beat Northern Colorado, 68-50

Bears and guard Devon Beitzel keep it close until 13-0 spurt propels Aztecs to first win in NCAA tournament. Kawhi Leonard scores Aztecs' first eight points and finishes with 21. Next is Temple.

March 17, 2011|By Chris Dufresne
  • San Diego State's James Rahon (11) battles to keep possession of the ball against the defense of Northern Colorado's Devon Beitzel during their West Region game on Thursday.
San Diego State's James Rahon (11) battles to keep possession of the… (Matt York / Associated Press )

The one team San Diego State did not want to face in the NCAA tournament was a team that looked like Brigham Young.

BYU handed the Aztecs their only two losses this year.

The selection committee didn't bother to ask San Diego State for its playing-style preference, though, so the second-seeded Aztecs ended up playing Thursday against Northern Colorado, which certainly resembled BY-you-know-who.

The Bears are built around a hyper-scoring guard, Devon Beitzel, who does a terrific Jimmer Fredette imitation.

2011 NCAA men's basketball championship brackets

When Beitzel hit a three-pointer to cut San Diego State's second-half lead to three with 14 minutes 11 seconds left, there seemed a chance that Northern Colorado might become just the fifth No. 15-seeded team to shock a No. 2.

Then the alarm clock sounded.

The Aztecs clamped down on defense, went on a 13-0 run, and left the McKale Center with a 68-50 victory.

San Diego State is now 1-6 in its NCAA tournament history, looking to become 2-6 on Saturday against Temple. The winner of that game follows Interstate 10 on its way to next week's West Regional at Honda Center in Anaheim.

The Aztecs (33-2) were thrilled to finally deliver that first NCAA win, which comes in Coach Steve Fisher's 12th season.

"This wasn't a win for me," Fisher said. "This win was for our program, our team and everybody that's been involved in the program."

It was a somewhat sputtering effort, with the winning team shooting 32% in the first half and leading by only six.

It seemed like anyone's game too, until that 13-0 run.

"We're a good spurt team," Fisher said. "We can score in bunches."

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Starting point guard D.J. Gay couldn't hit the desert with rock before starting the "spurt" with his first basket, a three-pointer that answered Beitzel's three-pointer.

James Rahon, who came off the bench to score 12 points, 10 in the second half, then knocked down a corner three.

"I think both teams came out a little bit nervous," Rahon said. "It's such a big stage. It's what you dream of playing in as a little kid."

Beitzel, with 25 points, took the Bears (21-11) as far as he could.

Aztecs guard Chase Tapley had flashbacks to BYU and Fredette as he chased Beitzel all over the court.

"Fredette really takes you off the dribble and Beitzel really comes off screens," Tapley said, "but they're both really good players and can really shoot. He was on today."

The Aztecs had better players, and more of them, led by star forward Kawhi Leonard. He scored his team's first eight points and finished with 21. Tapley finished with 14 and Billy White matched Rahon's 12.

San Diego State also played ferocious defense. The Aztecs are long, lean shot disrupters. They held Northern Colorado to 33.9% for the game (19 of 56).

"The one thing we did stick with was our defense throughout the whole game," Rahon said.

Beitzel made eight of his 17 shots.

"He's as good as advertised," Rahon said. "Crafty, got his shots off when he wanted to. Fortunately, we were able to play pretty good defense on those other guys."

Bears players not named Beitzel made only 11 of 39.

"They do have a lot of size in there and it's hard to get in there and get your shot up," the 6-1 Beitzel said. "Especially for us little guys."

San Diego State advances to play No. 7 Temple, which defeated No. 10 Penn State, 66-64, on Juan Fernandez's off-balance jump shot.

The Aztecs on Thursday took the biggest first step in program history.

They're hoping it's the first of a long walk.

"It's a great feeling to win one for this team and for San Diego in general," Rahon said. "But we're not here to just win one game. We're here to win more."

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