Blue Devils battle Aztecs in South Regional action

Mar 22, 2015 - 2:24 PM Charlotte, NC ( - Third-round action in the NCAA Tournament's South Region kicks off Sunday with a matchup featuring the eighth-seeded San Diego State Aztecs taking on the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils at Time Warner Cable Arena.

The winner moves on to next week's Sweet 16 against Utah.

San Diego State opened up a huge lead over ninth-seeded St. John's on Friday, and never looked back as the Aztecs coasted to a 76-64 victory over the Red Storm. SDSU improved to 6-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament with the win.

Duke had an easier time in its first tournament game. There was no shot at a 16-seed upsetting this top seed on Friday, as the Blue Devils downed Robert Morris, 85-56, to advance to the third round.

Sunday's clash between the Aztecs and Blue Devils marks the second-ever meeting between the programs. The sides butted heads at Cameron Indoor Stadium in 2001, with the top-ranked Blue Devils winning by a 92-79 margin.

San Diego State wasn't widely known for its strong offensive play this season, but the Aztecs decided to turn that aspect of their game up Friday against the Red Storm. SDSU netted 47.2 percent of its shots from the floor, and received a double-digit scoring effort from four players e route to the win. JJ O'Brien scored 18 points to pace the Aztecs, while Dwayne Polee II, who collapsed in the middle of a game earlier this season which forced him to miss a majority of the schedule, chipped in 15 points in 19 minutes on the floor. Matt Shrigley contributed 12 points, and Skylar Spencer added 10 with seven rebounds in the victory.

The Aztecs didn't need much from standout Winston Shepard, who scored only seven points in the win over the Red Storm. He will have to be more active against the Blue Devils, however. Shepard leads the team in scoring with 11.0 ppg, adding in a team-high 5.3 rpg to his resume. O'Brien (10.3 ppg) and Aqeel Quinn (10.8 ppg) round out a trio of double-digit scorers for the Aztecs this season. SDSU is collecting 62.2 ppg on 42 percent shooting - a paltry number. But the team's defense has been outstanding, allowing a mere 53.5 ppg to opponents on 37.9 percent shooting. That defense may be facing its toughest challenge yet.

It certainly looks that way, especially if the Blue Devils can keep the train moving after their lopsided win over Northeast Conference champion Robert Morris. Duke connected on an impressive 63 percent of its shots, including 10-of-21 from 3-point range. The team's defense also stepped up and limited the Colonials to 36.4 percent shooting. Quinn Cook led the charge for Duke offensively with 22 points, while standout freshman sensation and ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor poured in 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Justise Winslow pulled down a team-best 11 boards and tied Tyus Jones with seven assists in the contest. Jones, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee all scored 10 points for the Blue Devils, while Plumlee added 10 boards for a double-double.

Okafor, the first freshman in the history of the ACC to win the league's Player of the Year Award, and possibly the consensus top-overall draft pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, leads the team in scoring and rebounding heading into the matchup against San Diego State. The 6-foot-11 big man nets 17.8 ppg and grabs 8.8 rpg, also adding in 46 blocked shots and an impressive 67.4 shooting percentage. He's followed in scoring by Cook (15.9 ppg), Winslow (12.1 ppg) and Jones (11.6 ppg) to help give Duke an average of 80.7 ppg on 50.6 percent shooting as a team. The Blue Devils are about much more than offense, though. The team's defense is limiting opponents to 65.3 ppg this season.

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