The Aztecs have learned a lot in the course of winning close games this year. After tonight, they will have a rare opportunity to learn by losing. The 20-game winning streak is over for the fifth ranked San Diego State Aztecs as they fell to the Wyoming Cowboys 68-62 in Laramie.
The last time San Diego State played at Wyoming was pretty memorable, but for all the wrong reasons if you are on the Aztecs side. It started with a long and miserable plane and bus trip that took them nearly 24 hours to reach Laramie and carried forward into the first half of the game in which the Aztecs scored just nine points. It ended with a 13 point loss to the Cowboys.
This time around the travel plans were uneventful. Getting their first nine points was fairly easy. But the Aztecs were a step slow and a touch out of place in their 68-62 defeat at the hands of Wyoming.
At halftime, the Cowboys led by nine points. They shot 50% from the field compared to the Aztecs 31%.
The Aztecs led by as many as seven points in the first half but couldn't pull away from Wyoming. The Cowboys hit 4-of-6 three-point shots, compared to 1-of-7 for the Aztecs. That difference alone would make up the nine points. But the 10 Aztecs turnovers was even more damaging. San Diego State turned the ball over just four times in their home win over Nevada on Saturday.
Xavier Thames went into the game needing just two points to reach 1,000 points as an Aztecs player. He got fouled on a three-point shot in the first minute and made all three. With tonight's 13 points, Thames became the 29th player in San Diego State's history to reach that milestone. He is also the reigning Mountain West Player of the Week for his performance against Boise State and Nevada. But he shot just 3-of-16 tonight, including 0-for-8 on three-point shots.
Dwayne Polee II supplied instant offense from the bench. He led the Aztecs in scoring with 15 points but fouled out late in the second half. J.J. O'Brien had 11 points. Josh Davis and Winston Shepard each contributed 10 points.
Riley Grabau had the hot hand for Wyoming, scoring 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Larry Nance Jr. scored 14 points. As a team, they slowed down the Aztecs with their zone defense yet managed to get numerous dunks and run-outs of their own.
Inside the Numbers
Both teams made 22 field goals, although San Diego State needed 20 more attempts. Both teams made five three-point shots, although the Aztecs needed nine more attempts. The difference came down to free throws. San Diego State has a history of shooting poorly from the charity stripe but still managing to make more free throws than their opponents take. That wasn't the case tonight. The Cowboys took more free throws and made more free throws than the Aztecs, and that is where you find the winning six-point margin.
Next up the Aztecs take on Air Force at home on Saturday, February 15 on CBS Sports Network. Air Force will play zone, shoot three pointers and give the Aztecs another tough test in conference play.