Cowboys and Aztecs Battle for First Place in Mountain West

Feb. 9, 2015

LARAMIE, Wyo. -

Gameday Central | Game Notes   Get Acrobat Reader

First place in the Mountain West is on the line when the University of Wyoming men's basketball team visits San Diego State on Wednesday. Tied atop the conference standings, the Cowboys (19-5, 8-3 MW) and Aztecs (18-6, 8-3 MW) are two of the top defensive teams in the NCAA. The Pokes rank fourth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 54.4 points per game, while the Aztecs' 53.8 are third. The duo is two of four teams in the MW receiving votes in this week's national polls. Wyoming may be without the services of senior forward Larry Nance Jr., though, who is day-to-day with mononucleosis. Tip is set for 9 p.m. MT in Viejas Arena.

The contest will be televised by CBS Sports Network (Charter: 634, DirecTV: 221) and broadcast on the radio by the Cowboy Sports Network. Fans can follow live stats and audio of the game through the men's basketball Gameday Central page on GoWYO.com. Contact your local cable or satellite provider for further channel information.

A Look at the Matchup
Head coach Larry Shyatt and Wyoming are 4-2 since San Diego State broke their seven-game winning streak with a 60-52 victory in Laramie on Jan. 14. Last time out, the Cowboys lost a 73-50 game at Air Force on Saturday for their most lopsided defeat of the season. Air Force connected on 57 percent (28-of-49) from the field and 50 percent (10-of-20) beyond the arc, both season highs for a Cowboy opponent, as Wyoming surrendered more than 70 points for just the fourth time this season. The Pokes were within four, 35-31, early in the second half, but the Falcons hit three-straight triples during a 13-0 run to take control of the contest. On the season, Wyoming averages 62.1 points per game on 47 percent from the field and 32 percent beyond the arc. The Cowboys are second in the MW and 39th nationally in field-goal percentage, while their 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio is fourth in the MW and 46th in the nation. Defensively, the Pokes allow 54.4 points per game on 40 and 33 percent, respectively. UW's scoring defense is second in the MW and fourth in the NCAA, while its 13.4 fouls per game are first in the conference and second in the nation.

Head coach Steve Fisher and San Diego State are 5-2 since their win in Laramie. Most recently, though, the Aztecs lost a 61-46 game at Boise State on Sunday. The Broncos never trailed as they drained eight first-half three-pointers to build a 17-point lead and owned a 30-18 halftime edge. SDSU used a 10-0 run early in the second half to pull within 34-30 with 14:55 left, but the Broncos responded with back-to-back three-pointers. Overall, San Diego State averages 61.9 points per game on 41 percent from the field and 31 percent beyond the arc, while allowing 53.8 points on 38 and 30 percent, respectively. The Aztecs rank first in the MW and third in the NCAA in scoring defense, while placing 16th in the nation in field-goal defense and 29th in three-point defense. SDSU's 14.5 fouls per game are eighth in the NCAA.

Each Team's Leaders
With Nance and redshirt freshman forward Alan Herndon out with mononucleosis at Air Force, junior guard Josh Adams scored a team-high 11 points for his 17th game in double figures this season. He has scored at least 10 in eight of the nine games Nance has missed over the last three seasons and is averaging 11.1 points and 3.4 assists this season. He ranks fourth in the MW in assists and sixth at 1.5 steals per game. Senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. grabbed 10 rebounds against the Falcons, his third-straight game in double-figure boards. Cooke shoots a MW-high 73 percent from the field to average 8.0 points and 5.7 rebounds. Senior Riley Grabau paces the conference and the NCAA at the free throw line with 94 percent, as he contributes 8.8 points and 2.2 assists. Nance, a leading contender for MW Player of the Year, paces the Pokes at 16.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. His 55 percent from the field ranks fifth in the MW and 34th in the NCAA. Senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. rounds out UW's probable starters at 7.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Senior guard Aqeel Quinn averages a team-high 10.9 points per game for San Diego State, good for 19th in the conference, and adds 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Junior forward Winston Shepard, a preseason All-MW selection, is the only other Aztec to average double figures at 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest. He scored 12 points at Boise State. Senior forward JJ O'Brien had a double-double against the Broncos with 16 points and 10 rebounds, as he contributes 9.3 points, 5.5 boards and 2.5 assists per game. He ranks ninth in the league in rebounds and fifth at 1.5 steals per game. Junior forward Skylar Spencer's 2.5 blocks per game are fourth in the MW and 31st nationally, as he adds 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 points. Sophomore forward Matt Shrigley rounds out SDSU's probable starters at 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game.

About the Series
Wyoming owns a slim 39-36 advantage in the all-time series with San Diego State, but is 11-22 all-time in San Diego and has not won in Viejas since 2007, a string of six-straight losses. In the first meeting between the two programs this season, the Aztecs earned a 60-52 victory in Laramie on Jan. 14. Nance had 19 points and Adams added 14 in that game, but SDSU led the majority of the second half and hit free throws late to hand UW its first conference loss.

Up Next
The Cowboys host San Jose State on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium. Tickets can be purchased by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or online at GoWYO.com.