Dwayne Evans was unstoppable for St. Louis, and the No. 4-seeded Billikens earned a comfortable first-round victory over New Mexico State, winning 64-44 on Thursday.
The star for St. Louis, as always, was Evans. Just 6'5, and, per his teammates, not capable of dunking, the forward has developed a refined array of post moves, and they were all on display against the Aggies. After burning his first man, he often had to deal with the 7'5 Sim Bhullar in the post, but he was generally able to squeak his layups past the big man. Evans finished with 24 points, and at one point, had 22 points against New Mexico State's 23.
NMSU stayed within reach thanks to a great job on the offensive boards, grabbing 21 of its 44 misses, with Bhullar, who captured America's hearts and minds, pulling down four of his 11 rebounds on offense and Bandja Sy, who led the Aggies with 17 points, grabbing seven offensive boards. But they turned the ball over 15 times, 10 on steals, leading to a lot of easy fast-break hoops for the ball-hawking Billikens.
The Billikens came out hot, leading 20-8 behind 12 points from Evans. NMSU likely wanted to get the ball to Bhullar more, but the Billikens packed the lane and many passes to the Aggies' big man ended up bouncing off his hands and out of bounds for turnovers. They'd keep pushing, entering the half up 29-16.
The Aggies were able to keep it modestly close. They busted out a few steals and converted in transition, reeling off an 8-0 run featuring an alley-oop by Sy to cut a 14-point lead to just six. St. Louis was not amused, quickly reeling off six in a row of its own to extend the lead back to double digits and fend off any hope of NMSU being competitive. The Billikens would push the lead up to as much as 21, and this one was done.
St. Louis will go on to play the winner of Oklahoma State-Oregon.
Oh, and because you wanted them, some .GIFs of Bhullar dunking and blocking a shot: