SAN JOSE -- It took St. Louis forward Dwayne Evans awhile to figure out how to take his 6-foot, 5-inch frame at 7-foot, 5-inch Sim Bhullar of New Mexico State.
“About two possessions,” he guessed. “He wasn’t really what we were focused on against them anyway.”
Nevertheless, it was good enough. The Billikens, untroubled by anything the Aggies did at any size, smothered them slowly but comprehensively, 66-44, in the first game of the Midwest Regional here.
[RECAP: St. Louis 64, New Mexico State 44]
Oregon handled Oklahoma State in the first real upset of the tournament, 68-55, in a game that was only mildly more appealing to non-Ducks. Four Oregon players scored in double figures and forward Arsalan Kazemi grabbed 17 rebounds to make clinical work of the fifth-seeded Cowboys, thus justifying all the opinions of those who thought the Ducks have been scandalously underseeded.
St. Louis, though, made the stronger impression, and Evans, who finished 24 points in 34 minutes, was most impressive of all.
“When you’re 6-5 going against a guy who’s 7-5, you don’t really go right at him anyway,” Evans said. “If you do, you’ll get eaten up. So I tried to get the guy moving, going in different directions.”
“We didn’t look for Dwayne on the low block,” senior forward/blue faux-hawked Australian Cody Ellis contributed. “He just went out a couple of steps to make the big guy come out a little but, and that opened it up for everyone. I mean, our game is to pound it inside anyway, but there are lots of ways to get it inside.”
So they did, by flashing Evans at 10 feet or so, both in the lane and at each angle. And on a day when nobody shot very well but Evans and Ellis, that was more than enough.
New Mexico State shot a horrific 27.9 percent for the game with 16 turnovers, getting baskets on only 17 of 75 possessions and scoring a season-low in points. St. Louis, though, one of the liveliest four-seeds in recent history, was only 10 for 30 other than Evans and Ellis, meaning that if your surname did not begin with E, you shot 29 percent. Even in a down year for scoring in the sport, this was unpleasant to the eye.
“I don’t know what it was,” Evans said. “The floor just seemed bigger for some reason. I’m sure it isn’t, but it just seemed that way.”
He shouldn’t be confused by that. The building seems unduly long to the San Jose Sharks too, and they’re here all the time. And it isn’t the building, either. Across the country, bad shooting reigned; 11 of the first 16 teams to complete play couldn’t convert 40 percent of their attempts, 10 of the 16 didn’t reach 60, and Pitt and Wichita State on their own combined to miss 34 of their 37 threes.
The night session may promise more appealing work; one can always hope. But given all the other games played this year, a wise person would assume otherwise.