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San Diego State vs. No. 25 Wyoming game preview: Aztecs face toughest road test of season against the Cowboys

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Wyoming is already a great team. And, oh yeah, it plays at 7,220 feet.

Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West Conference is known for its painfully tough road games that test everything in a player, from his endurance to the strength of his eardrums.

A Saturday night in front of a packed Viejas Arena with "The Show" blasting constant noise and berating you for every little mistake? Good luck.

A road game in the gladiator-colloseum-style Pit (now WisePies Arena...) with ravenous Lobos fans standing just a few feet from the court? No, thank you.

A weekend trip to Logan, Utah, to play on a court where the Aggies have gone 243-29 in the last 17 seasons? Yikes.

But one could reasonably argue that those home-court advantages fall short of that of the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie, Wyoming, the home of the No. 25 Cowboys.

Perched at an elevation of 7,220 feet, the Arena-Auditorium is the highest elevation Division I basketball arena in the country, and the Pokes have won more than 75 percent of games played there since it was built in 1982.

That elevation weighs heavily on teams like SDSU, who normally practice around sea level -- 422 feet above sea level, to be exact.

Players tire more easily and coaches have to implement substitution patterns the players aren't used to in order to combat the quick fatigue the elevation causes.

"I think the altitude is the hardest part (of playing in Laramie)," senior guard Aqeel Quinn said yesterday. "We've been traveling since we were little kids so I don't think traveling for basketball really affects us."

SDSU head coach Steve Fisher told the media yesterday he wouldn't change the substitution patterns tomorrow night, but he would most likely substitute quicker, pulling his starters out two minutes into the game.

Fisher and Quinn also said they're hoping junior forward/guard Winston Shepard will pick up where he left off against New Mexico, when he scored 20 points and played the best game of his SDSU career.

"That's the Winston Shepard everyone loves and I love personally," Quinn said. "You see him playing hard up and down the floor with energy and smiling on the court, you just know he's having fun ... It looked like he was a kid back on the playground in Houston."

"Hopefully, (Shepard will) have a 40-minute performance like we saw in the second half against New Mexico," Fisher said. "He's a very talented player, and one thing he provides for us that goes way underappreciated is his ability to move without the ball and pass the basketball. He's by far our best passer, and he's doing things now in tighter circles now more so than he has earlier."

The 12-4 Aztecs will see a familiar face on the other side of the ball tomorrow night in Larry Nance, Jr.

Pegged as the preseason MW Player of the Year, Nance has lived up to his hype in Wyoming's first 17 games, averaging about 16 points and seven boards to go along with a block and a steal per game.

But Nance has a big-time supporting cast this year, headlined by the freakishly athletic point guard, Josh Adams, and dunk-city big man Derek Cooke, Jr.

If you don't believe the dunk-city line, just click below. (Warning: Aztec fans, don't click; this is from last year's game -- the one where Wyoming handed then-No. 5 SDSU its second loss of the season.)

Yes, the last time SDSU traveled to Laramie, the Cowboys stunned the MW and beat Fisher's squad 68-62 in a tough game in which SDSU fought back from a 14-point deficit in the second half.

"We know it's going to be a grind-it-out type of game," Quinn said. "(Wyoming) likes to run a lot of clock. We can't let them get anything easy in transition. We have to run our stuff and make them guard as well."

Last year this game was played on ESPNU. This year, ESPN2 will air it at 8 p.m. Pacific Time, 9 p.m. in Wyoming.

Prediction: These are your No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the MW come season's end. Wyoming takes this one at home, 60-59.