Jan. 23, 2012
Laramie, Wyo. -
Two of the top teams in the Mountain West collide in Laramie on Tuesday night when first-place San Diego State visits the Arena-Auditorium to face second-place Wyoming at 6:30 p.m. The Aztecs (17-2, 3-0) have climbed into the top 13 in both polls thanks to a 10-game winning streak, but now visit the Double A where they are 7-24 overall and the Cowboys (16-3, 2-1) are 12-1 this season, thanks to boisterous crowds the last two home games.
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or going online at WyomingAthletics.com. Fans can also follow live stats and live audio of Wyoming's games, as well as live video of the postgame press conference, through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on the website. The contest will be broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network and televised on The Mtn.
A Look at the Matchup
The Cowboys enter Tuesday with some momentum after winning two MW games last week. Wyoming notched a 64-53 victory at Air Force last Wednesday to break a 16-game losing streak in MW play on the road, and followed up with a dominant 70-51 home win over Colorado State to break the Rams' eight-game winning streak. The wins moved the Pokes to 16-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference to tie for second in the MW standings with UNLV and CSU. The Wyoming defense was dominant in both contests, as the Pokes held the Falcons and Rams to extended scoring droughts. UW limited Air Force to seven points over the final 5:45 and Colorado State to just four points over the final 8:03. Wyoming continued to rank third in scoring defense (53.1 ppg) in the last NCAA rankings, while ranking 17th in field goal percentage defense (38.4) and 27th in three-point field goal percentage defense (29.7). Two of the three marks lead the MW. The Cowboy offense has been executing well also. UW ranks 12th in the NCAA in free throw percentage (76.1), 16th in turnover margin (+4.0) and 50th in field goal percentage (47.1). At least three Cowboys have scored in double figures for four of the last five games.
San Diego State compiled a 34-3 record last season to win the Mountain West tournament and make a run into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. The Aztecs looked to be in for a down year after losing four starters from that squad, but long-time head coach Steve Fisher has the Aztecs reloaded. SDSU is first in the league standings at 17-2 overall and 3-0 in MW play to place No. 12 in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 13 in the AP Media Poll. The Aztecs are winners of their last 10 games, the sixth longest current winning streak in the nation, but two of their three conference wins have been by less than five points. San Diego State opened the MW with a 69-67 home win over No. 12 UNLV, before beating New Mexico, 75-70, on the road and most recently earning a 57-44 home win over Air Force last Saturday. Overall, the Aztecs are pretty balanced from offense to defense. SDSU is third in the MW in scoring (73.9 ppg), fourth in field goal percentage (46.9) and fourth in assist-turnover ratio at 1.08. San Diego State's plus 12.3 scoring margin is third in the MW and 24th in the nation. Defensively, the Aztecs rank fourth in the conference in scoring defense (61.6 ppg) and lead the MW in defensive rebounds at 27.2. SDSU commits 14.6 fouls per game, which is ninth nationally.
Each Team's Leaders
Redshirt junior Leonard Washington has been huge for the Pokes in Mountain West play so far. He earned conference co-player of the week on Monday after posting 13 points and eight rebounds against Air Force and career-highs of 32 and 14 against Colorado State. He's averaging 12.9 points and a team-high 6.7 rebounds per game, while ranking in the top eight of six different MW categories. Senior guard JayDee Luster played well against the Rams also. He notched five assists to zero turnovers to move up to second in assist-turnover ratio in the latest NCAA rankings at 3.4. Redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez continues to pace Wyoming at 13.3 points per game to go with 1.7 steals, while senior guard Francisco Cruz adds 12.3 points and 1.8 assists. Senior center Adam Waddell rounds out UW's probable starters at 9.7 points and nearly one block per game.
Junior guard Chase Tapley paces the Aztecs and the MW at 16.6 points per game, as one of the top three-point shooters in the league. His 46 percent beyond the arc is second in the league and he makes 2.4 per game for fourth in the MW. He also leads the conference in steals at 2.1 per game. Sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin adds 15.4 points and 6.6 boards per game to rank third and fifth in the MW in points and rebounds, while sophomore guard Xavier Thames is second in assists (5.1) and third in minutes (32.9). Junior guard James Rahon also scores in double figures at 10.2 points per game, and senior forward Tim Shelton rounds out SDSU's probable starters at 4.1 points and 4.6 rebounds.
About the Series
Tuesday will the 70th all-time meeting between the Pokes and Aztecs. Wyoming leads the all-time series, 37-32, but is 4-6 in its last 10 meetings with San Diego State, including a three-game losing streak. The Aztecs are 7-24 in Laramie, though. In the last matchup between the two, SDSU earned an 85-58 win in Wyoming's last home game of the 2010-11 season. UW's Djibril Thiam scored 13 points in that game on senior night.
The Cowboys travel to Boise State on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for their second MW road game.