The San Diego State Aztecs know playing the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie is tough. Last year the Aztecs only scored nine points in the first half of a game they eventually lost. So it has to be a combination of altitude, missed free throws and turnovers that led to Tuesday night’s San Diego State loss 68-62.
The Aztecs woke up with ESPN, Sports Illustrated and USA Today spotlighting their journey from obscurity in 1998 to national spotlight and relevance in 2014. But Steve Fisher and Naismith College Player of the Year candidate Xavier Thames awoke in Laramie, Wyoming knowing this is the biggest game on their conference slate.
The Wyoming zone defense made it tough for a cold-handed Thames. He didn’t make a field goal in the first half and still didn’t until around 11 minutes left in the second half. In fact, Dwayne Polee led the team with 15 points, nine of which were off three-pointers. No offense drives the national conversation for the Aztecs being closer to a No. 5-seed than a No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament in March.
For San Diego State, someone must step up to Thames’ play. Though Thames is playing on another level, once he gets cold San Diego State could see another early exit in March. Polee came strong off the bench to provide necessary life to the team on a night where Skylar Spencer was struggling and failed to score a point.
And for Wyoming, they provide the rest of the league and the nation a blueprint on how to beat a nationally ranked defense. Force the Aztecs to make turnovers and make them beat you at the charity stripe.
The nation will likely drop San Diego State out of the top 10 unaware of how hard it is to win in Wyoming. At least San Diego State is locked into the tourney while the rest of the conference might play in the lesser tournaments.