Xavier Thames kept his stellar senior season at San Diego State alive in a 63-44 win over North Dakota State. He has earned NetScouts Basketball’s NCAA Tournament Player of the Day honors for games on March 22nd.
The 6-foot-3 point guard scored 30 points on 9-of-19 shooting, a 4-of-9 showing from three, and an 8-of-9 display from the free throw line. He also dished five assists to lead the Aztecs into the Sweet 16.
“I used a high-ball screen a lot,” Thames told Kevin Schnepf of the Inforum. “I’ve got to give credit to those guys setting all those screens because I was getting to the lane pretty easy. And that was the plan, to get into the lane.”
Thames, who transferred to San Diego State after spending his freshman season at Washington State, was named the Mountain West Player of the Year for good reason. He’s averaging 17 points, 3.2 assists, and three rebounds per game while shooting 41 percent from the field and 38 percent from three. The Sacramento native has been extremely clutch for the Aztecs this season and carried it into the tournament.
The 23-year-old has a great mid-range game where he utilizes ball screens to pull up for the jumper. He can knock down the three, but is at his best in attack mode.
“We actually recruited (Xavier) and were very disappointed when he chose Washington State,” said San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. “He has developed his game where he is light years ahead of when he came to us.”
Thames will need similar performances on the offensive end to keep the Aztecs alive. He’s been the primary option for the Aztecs who will face Arizona or Gonzaga in the next round.
Saturday Game Notes
-Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin led Florida past Pittsburgh in a 61-45 win. Wilbekin finished with 21 points (9-15 FG, 3-7 3FG), three rebounds, two assists, and two steals while Michael Frazier II was the only other Gator in double figures (10 points).
-It wasn’t pretty, but Louisville advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season with a 66-51 victory over St. Louis. Luke Hancock led all scorers with 21 points (6-15 FG, 4-12 3FG) to go with three rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Draft prospects Russ Smith (11 points, seven assists, seven turnovers) and Montrezl Harrell (10 points, 11 rebounds) didn’t have their best game, but did enough to propel the Cardinals. Dwayne Evans had 16 points and 10 rebounds for St. Louis while Jordair Jett added 15 points, seven assists, and four rebounds.
–Michigan was in control throughout most of the day in a 79-65 win over Texas. Nik Stauskas led the Wolverines with 17 points (4-12 FG, 4-9 3FG) and eight assists without a turnover. Jordan Morgan had a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) while Glenn Robinson added 14 points (5-10 FG, 2-3 3FG). The Longhorns’ freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor led Texas with 22 points along with five assists and will certainly be a player to watch next year. He possesses an advanced mid-range game with a floater and pull-up jumper.
–Dayton used an all-around effort once again to pull off another upset. The Flyers held on for a 55-53 win in which Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis missed a potential game-tying jumper at the buzzer. Dyshawn Pierre led Dayton with 14 points (5-12 FG, 1-2 3FG) and six rebounds while Jordan Sibert added 10 points (3-9 FG, 3-8 3FG). Ennis had a game-high 19 points for the Orange along with four rebounds and three assists. It will be interesting to see if he declares for the draft or returns for his sophomore season. Senior forward C.J. Fair had 14 points and 10 rebounds in his final collegiate game.
-In an up-and-down, high-scoring affair, Wisconsin rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to beat Oregon, 85-77. The Badgers got 19 points and five rebounds from junior center Frank Kaminsky while every starter scored in double figures. Joseph Young led the Ducks with 29 points while senior Jason Calliste added 20.
–Michigan State blew a 16-point lead in the second half, but survived Harvard’s comeback to win 80-73. Junior forward Branden Dawson, primarily known as a glue-guy, had a career-high 26 points to go with nine rebounds for the Spartans. First round prospects Gary Harris (18 points, five assists) and Adreian Payne (12 points, four rebounds) also played well. Junior guard Wesley Saunders led a Harvard group that returns three starters next season with 22 points.
–Shabazz Napier had a phenomenal second half to lead Connecticut past Villanova. The 6-foot guard had 25 points (21 in the second half), five rebounds, three assists, and two steals en route to a 77-65 upset over Villanova. Napier shot 9-of-13 from the field and 4-of-8 from three to continue his senior season. Villanova only made nine two-point field goals and was 11-of-31 from three in the loss. Sophomore point guard Ryan Arcidiacono had 18 points, six assists, three rebounds, and two steals for the Wildcats.
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