Aztecs have decided March advantage over St. John's
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- San Diego State has a decided March advantage over St. John's, its opponent in the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Aztecs will be making their sixth straight NCAA appearance and have nine players with tournament experience. St. John's has none.
SDSU, the No. 8 seed in the South, has won five NCAA Tournament games since 2011, reaching the Sweet 16 twice in that span. That was the last time the Red Storm, the No. 9 seed, made the field.
Dwayne Polee II was a freshman on that St. John's team before transferring to San Diego State. The Red Storm roster has completely turned over since then.
Of course, it won't matter much if the Aztecs play one of their offensively challenged, low-scoring games.
"We're going to need to score more than 43 points if we're going to be successful, and I believe that we will," coach Steve Fisher said Tuesday. "Hopefully we'll get that in a half."
That would be something new for the Aztecs. They're coming off a 45-43 loss to Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference tournament championship game.
"Some analysts look at stats and say we can't score," Fisher said. "Many who have seen us play say, `I like this team.' Many who haven't seen us play like the other team. So we can't worry about what others say. We just have to do our very best to come out and play. We look at stats, too, and we know we don't score a lot of points in some games."
SDSU averages 61.8 points per game while St. John's averages 71.2. SDSU's hallmark is its defense, as the Aztecs allow just 53.1 per game.
They hope they're ready for anything St. John's throws at them.
"We like to run too, honestly," senior guard Aqeel Quinn said. "Certain situations of certain games against certain teams caused us not to run. We had to play defense for 35 seconds or more. But the style we normally like to play is up-and-down, and that's how we like to play. It's going to be a fun game and we're looking forward to it."
The Red Storm can "score in a lot of different ways," Fisher said. "They make hard shots and they're a hard team to guard. That will be our challenge; make sure they don't get a lot of easy baskets, especially in transition."
On Sunday, St. John's suspended junior center Chris Obekpa for two weeks for a violation of team rules.
"It takes their eraser away," Fisher said, noting that Obekpa's 94 blocked shots are nine more than Skylar Spencer has blocked for SDSU. "I've talked about the impact Skylar has had for us. It allows you to defend really hard on the perimeter, without having to worry about getting beat off the dribble. Now, if they get beat, they're a little more vulnerable at the rim because they don't have that eraser back there. So I think that is a factor."
"A few plays here and there make the difference between winning and losing," he said.
JJ O'Brien, who like Quinn and Polee is a fifth-year senior, said it helps having been to the tournament before.
"I think that works to our benefit with our experience, knowing that you can't really view the game as a big situation. You just have to play basketball. I think with our experience we'll be able to stay grounded and play our game."
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