In its first game, a sophomore shooter with a sweet touch was its greatest difference maker.
James Rahon coolly delivered time and time again in the second half Thursday, dejecting a pesky No. 15 Northern Colorado team by scoring 12 points off the bench, including eight straight during a back-breaking run, to push the No. 2 Aztecs to a 68-50 second-round win.
Bears guard Devon Beitzel hit a three-pointer with 14:11 remaining to get UNC to within three at 38-35.
The Aztecs then riddled off a 20-5 run, during which Rahon hit two three-pointers and a mid-range jumper, and they never looked back en route to their first tournament win in program history.
Now, they look ahead.
San Diego State will face No. 7 Temple on Saturday. The Owls edged No. 10 Penn State 66-64 hours earlier on the same court .
Sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard had 19 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Aztecs, and senior forward Billy White added 12 points and 13 boards.
It was White's second straight game with seven offensive rebounds.