Aztecs challenge Cowboys in Mountain West showdown

Laramie, WY ( - The 25th-ranked Wyoming Cowboys saddle up for one of their toughest games to date, as they host the San Diego State Cowboys in Mountain West Conference action at Arena-Auditorium on Wednesday night.

Wyoming is all alone atop the MWC standings, sporting an unblemished 4-0 mark, and the team has won seven straight games since bowing to California more than a month ago, 45-42, on the road. The latest triumph for the Pokes came this past Saturday as they took down the Boise State Broncos at home, 65-54.

Winners of 13 straight at home, the Cowboys are off to their best start in MWC play since 2002-03, and would be setting a new team standard with a victory over the Aztecs.

Up until recently, the Aztecs were one of the teams to beat in the MWC, ranking as high as 13th in the country, but an unexpected 59-57 loss to Fresno State on Jan. 3 put an end to that. The team did manage to bounce back last week with a 56-42 decision over New Mexico, the fifth win in six outings for SDSU, but still the spotlight is shining elsewhere in the conference right now.

Wyoming leads the all-time series by a 39-35 margin and has been particularly dominant at home since the relationship began back in 1979, winning 26 of the 34 games played in Laramie. Last season, the Cowboys captured a 68-62 victory in the lone meeting.

Despite having trouble winning in Laramie, the good news for the Aztecs is that six of their eight victories on the road in the series have come under current head coach Steve Fisher.

The Aztecs won their 24th straight home game last week as Winston Shepard tallied 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds, offsetting five turnovers, as they took down New Mexico at Viejas Arena. Angelo Chol was the only other double-digit scorer for SDSU with 10 points off the bench, as the team limited the Lobos to only 29.8 percent shooting from the floor. The Aztecs survived despite hitting a mere 3-of-18 behind the 3-point line.

Producing from beyond the arc has not been one of the highlights for the Aztecs this season, with the team converting only 28.0 percent on the perimeter. However, that level of accuracy still beats the competition which checks in at a mere 27.3 percent. In addition, San Diego State has been able to clamp down on almost every opponent, limiting them to 36.6 percent from the floor overall, resulting in 53.5 ppg. Offensively, the only double-digit scorer on the defensive-minded unit is Shepard with his 11.4 ppg.

During their win over Boise State, the Cowboys shot better than 52 percent from the field in both the first and second halves, compared to the visitors who knocked down only 39.6 percent overall during the double-digit decision. Larry Nance Jr. was again dominant in the paint with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots, adding four assists as well, while Josh Adams tacked on 16 points. Riley Grabau converted all 10 of his free-throw tries in order to arrive at 15 points for a team that outscored BSU at the charity stripe, 14-6.

With three double-doubles on the campaign, it should not come as a surprise that Nance Jr. leads the Cowboys in both scoring (15.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg), not to mention pacing them with 21 blocked shots and being among the team leaders with 40 assists. Adams, the top man for assists with 66, adds another 11.1 ppg to the offensive attack, but like the Aztecs this is a team that feeds off its defense, limiting opponents to only 52.2 ppg on 39.8 percent shooting from the floor.