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San Diego State ends North Dakota State's bid for Cinderella run

North Dakota State Bison guard Taylor Braun (24) and forward TrayVonn Wright (32) walk off the court after a men's college basketball game during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament against the San Diego State Aztecs at Veterans Memorial Arena. The Aztecs defeated the Bison 63-44. James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

SPOKANE, Wash. – The players from North Dakota State were issued new lime green Nike basketball shoes for the NCAA tournament. None of them turned to slippers on Saturday night.

A stirring NCAA tournament run that started with an upset of Oklahoma on Thursday ended on Saturday with a thud. And a clang. And a bonk.

Those were the sounds of Bison shots on the rim, and most of them didn’t go in. San Diego State put the defensive clamps on the Bison to take a 63-44 win in a third round game at the Spokane Arena.

It was a night when NDSU leading scorer Taylor Braun found getting his shot off against the Aztecs was a much tougher chore than against any team in the Summit League, where he was the Player of the Year. It was an off night shooting for guard Lawrence Alexander, who torched Oklahoma for a career-high 28 points on Thursday.

Instead, it was SDSU guard Xavier Thames who was the point guard star of the show. He maneuvered in and around the Bison defense for 30 points, one short of his season high against Utah State.

Braun hit his first shot of the game, but would not see that happen again until 12:10 remained in the game. He was 1 of 10 from the field in the first half and the Aztecs took a 30-23 lead.

It wasn’t the much-hyped pressing ability of San Diego State that bothered the Bison – NDSU had just two turnovers in the first 20 minutes. But the Bison didn’t get many open looks in their halfcourt offense, either, hitting just 10 of 26 shots.

Each team traded 7-0 runs, the first by NDSU giving it a 20-15 lead with 6:07 left in the half. The Aztecs responded with theirs to surge into halftime with the lead.

It didn’t help that TrayVonn Wright, NDSU’s most consistent postseason scorer, sat for 14 minutes of the first half with two fouls.

Leading 51-43 with 5:24 remaining, the Aztecs put it away down the stretch scoring eight straight while the Bison went scoreless.

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.