NO. 12 SAN DIEGO STATE (17-2, 3-0 MWC) AT WYOMING (16-3, 2-1 MWC)
Time/TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, 6:30 p.m. local/The Mtn.
Location: University of Wyoming Arena-Auditorium
San Diego State 27 (No. 3 MWC)
Wyoming 85 (No. 5 MWC)
Line: Wyoming -1
San Diego State Players to Watch: G Chase Tapley, 6-2 Jr. (16.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 2.2 spg); G Xavier Thames, 6-3 So. (11.3 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.3 rpg); G Jamaal Franklin, 6-5 So. (15.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.4 spg). With his 16-point performance in Saturday’s 57-44 win over Air Force, Tapley has scored in double figures 13 consecutive times and in 17 of 19 games this season.
Wyoming Players to Watch: C Adam Waddell, 6-10 Sr. (9.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 61.8% FG); F Leonard Washington, 6-7 Jr. (12.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 62.3% FG); G JayDee Luster, 5-9 Sr. (5.8 ppg, 3.6 apg, 45.5% 3s). Luster has 68 assists against only 20 turnovers and 19 games this season.
Storylines: It’s the third straight game for San Diego State that the Mountain West lead is on the line. The Aztecs are the only unbeaten MWC after beating the two other teams – UNLV and New Mexico – considered contenders in the league. Wyoming dropped its MWC opener at home to New Mexico before beating Air Force and Colorado State to stay within a game of the Aztecs.
Keys: This is the 70th meeting between the Aztecs and Cowboys. Wyoming leads the all-time series 37-32, but SDSU has won the last three and six of the last 10.San Diego State has climbed to No. 12 in the most recent ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and to No. 13 in the AP poll, thanks to a 10-game winning streak. The Aztecs are 51-5 since the start of last season and 18-2 in their last 20 road games. Wyoming’s Leonard Washington is the reigning MWC Player of the Week. He had career-highs of 32 points and 14 rebounds in the Cowboys’ 70-51 win over Colorado State on Saturday. The Cowboys shot 42.1 percent from 3-point range in the win and are 13-0 when shooting a higher percentage from the 3-point line than their opponents. The Aztecs are shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 35.6 from the 3-point line, but scoring will be a challenge against the Cowboys. Wyoming leads the MWC in scoring defense at 53.1 points per game and is second (to New Mexico) in field goal defense. The Cowboys have allowed opponents to shoot 38.4 from the floor and a league-best 29.7 from behind 3-point line. If the game comes down to a free throw shooting contest, Wyoming has a huge advantage. Led by Larry Nance Jr.’s 91 percent and Luke Martinez’s 83 percent, the Cowboys shooting 76.1 percent from the stripe. The Aztecs are a MWC-worst 66.3 percent. San Diego State may have a slight advantage on the boards. It averages 38.4 rebounds per contest, while giving up just 33.4 per game. The Aztecs lead the league with 27.2 defensive rebounds per game. Wyoming gets 30.3 rebounds per night and is almost even with its opponents for the season (plus-12). Led by Luster, Wyoming turns the ball over just 11.7 times per game. The Cowboys also force 15.7 errors per game for a MWC-best plus-4 per game in the turnover category. Wyoming’s 64-53 2in over Air Force on Wednesday ended its 16-game losing streak in MWC road games. The Aztecs held Air Force to 1-of-18 from the 3-point line in Saturday’s victory. SDSU has surrendered just 32 percent from behind the 3-point arc this season, and 28.9 in three league games. SDSU has won 41 straight when holding its opponents under 60 points. The Cowboys are 11-1 in home games this season. After winning their first 10, they lost at home to New Mexico, 72-62 on Jan. 14. The Aztecs are 4-1 in true road games. Their only loss came in Waco against sixth-ranked Baylor on Nov. 15. They own impressive wins at Arizona (61-57 on Nov. 23), UC-Santa Barbara (76-75 in OT on Nov. 26) and at New Mexico (75-70 on Wednesday).
The Bottom Line: Laramie is a tough place to play and – with its defense and high-percentage shooting – is a tough matchup for the Aztecs. However, after wins over UNLV and at New Mexico, it’s hard to doubt San Diego State’s ability to win tough games.
The Pick: San Diego State 64, Wyoming 62