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Aztecs try to right ship in MWC clash with Cowboys

Losers of three in a row, the 24th-ranked San Diego State Aztecs try to regain their footing tonight as they clash with the Wyoming Cowboys in Mountain West Conference action at Viejas Arena.

The Aztecs, who have not dropped four consecutive decisions since 2004-05 when the program was beaten in six straight at one juncture, had lost just three of their first 23 outings of the season before this recent slide. In addition to setbacks against UNLV and New Mexico, the two other premier programs in the MWC, somehow the Aztecs were caught off-guard by Air Force on Saturday in a 58-56 final. The loss to The Academy was the first in the last nine meetings between the teams and leaves the Aztecs tied for second place in the MWC with UNLV, trailing UNM.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys are sort of in the same boat as SDSU, having dropped three straight outings and four of the last five. Failing to reach 60 points in three consecutive contests, Wyoming was beaten by Colorado State over the weekend in Fort Collins, 54-46. A bit further back in the standings than the Aztecs, the Pokes are sixth in the league at just 4-6 after having a strong start to conference play.

The Aztecs have never defeated Wyoming in five straight games during the all- time series, but SDSU has an opportunity to do just that tonight after taking a 52-42 win in the first meeting of the campaign in Laramie last month. With that victory the Aztecs moved closer to knotting up the series which currently stands at 37-33 in favor of the Pokes.

In front of a sold-out crowd for the most recent installment of the Border War, Wyoming came up quite small on offense as it bowed to Colorado State by eight points at Moby Arena. Luke Martinez accounted for a game-high 15 points and Francisco Cruz chipped in another 10, but it wasn't nearly enough for the visitors to compete. Outscored by a 14-5 margin at the free-throw line, Wyoming was held to just three offensive rebounds and 19 boards overall in the matchup. Even though he didn't show up as one of the scoring leaders over the weekend, Leonard Washington is still a primary producer for the Cowboys in conference play with his 13.9 ppg, shooting 51.6 percent from the floor while also clearing 7.4 rpg to pace the group. Martinez (11.9 ppg) and Cruz (11.8 ppg) help to carry some of the load for the Cowboys on offense, but it has been the defense that has carried the group this far, allowing league foes just 57.6 ppg.

It was a long time coming, but perhaps San Diego State's loss to Air Force could serve as a wake-up call to the Aztecs who may have thought they could cruise through the campaign. However, SDSU did have a built-in excuse since they were missing Jamaal Franklin who was held out with an ankle injury. With That Franklin watching from the sidelines, Chase Tapley tried to lead the team onto victory with his 17 points and nine rebounds, but it simply wasn't good enough. Tim Shelton added a double-double for the visitors to Clune Arena with his 13 points and 11 boards as the team shot just 18-of-52 from the floor and 3-of-16 beyond the arc. Jamaal Franklin is again not listed in the starting lineup tonight, which means if he fails to make an appearance the Aztecs again have to find a suitable alternative to his 16.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg, both of which pace the program. Tapley, one of the most experienced players in program history, is putting up 15.8 ppg as a 43.8 percent shooter from three-point range, but he can only do so much for SDSU when they are missing a critical piece at both ends of the floor.