Gear up for gameday: SDSU
SAN DIEGO -- We've been talking about this brutal stretch of games for weeks now.
Tonight, the Cowboys will travel to Viejas Arena in San Diego to open a two-game series against the Aztecs, a team that has claimed 12 Mountain West titles -- in the regular season, coupled with the league tournament -- since 2000.
"They are the standard," Jeff Linder called Brian Dutcher's San Diego State program earlier in the week.
There won't be the typical 12,000-plus fans in attendance in this one. That's the good news for the visitors.
To steal a phrase from UW's assistant coach, Sundance Wicks, the Aztecs "bring their own juice."
SDSU has won five of its last seven games and is coming off a dominating two-game road sweep of Air Force where the Aztecs averaged 95.5 points per game and held the Falcons to just 60.
“Well, I told the guys, we won't see another matchup zone, probably the rest of the year," Dutcher said of his team's offensive output. "So whatever we did offensively it's hard to say we're going to build on (it) other than the fact that we shared the ball and we move the ball. I think we had 21 assists on 31 baskets, and I think we had 27 assists the game before. So, we're sharing the ball and that part can continue to happen. But as far as the offense we ran, it was suited just for Air Force or anybody that would zone us.”
Wyoming won't utilize a zone defense tonight, but they are very aware of the firepower -- inside and out -- that the Aztecs possess. They nailed 16 three-pointers in the finale against the Falcons.
Linder also knows all too well about SDSU's stingy defense, that holds it's opponents to just 60.6 points per outing, tops in the MWC.
"They really just try to bury you," Linder said. "It’s something we can’t simulate in practice and something our guys are going to have to feel. They’re going to have to feel what it’s like to play against a championship-level defense.”
Linder compared the Aztecs' forwards the "Berlin Wall." They are pretty good on offense, too.
Matt Mitchell is a big reason for that.
The 6-foot-6 senior leads the team in scoring, averaging 14.9 points per game. He shoots better than 44 percent from the field. He can strike from deep, too, netting 40.4 percent of his three-point attempts.
Mitchell made his return to the court against Air Force in the second game after sustaining a right knee injury in a road loss at Utah State Jan. 14.
He scored 10 points against the Falcons in just 14 minutes on the court.
“Yeah, we had him on a time restriction," Dutcher said. "I think the maximum was 15 minutes. So, we got 14 out of Matt today and moving forward, hopefully that will grow where those minutes will go up as we head into Wyoming this coming weekend. It's really good having Matt back. He just plays with such poise and true leadership out there. It's great having him back on the floor.”
Mitchell will wear a custom brace on that knee tonight.
“My knee feels great no pain, no physical, or mental restrictions," Mitchell told the local media.
Mitchell isn't the only Aztec that can put the ball in the basket.
Guard Jordan Schakel is averaging nearly 14 points per night, and Nathan Mensah is also in double digits with 10. Mensah also pulls down a team-leading seven rebound an outing.
The Cowboys enter tonight on a three-game winning streak. That's the first time this program has accomplished that in conference play since January of 2018.
When is the last time Wyoming won in San Diego?
Way, way back on Jan. 3, 2007. You remember that 66-65 win, right? No? James Spencer paced the Pokes with 22 points. Daaron Brown and Brandon Ewing both netted 19. Joseph Taylor pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds. Brad Jones had four assists.
It's been a minute.
Mountain West Conference standings
1 Boise State (13-2, 9-1)
2 Utah State (13-5, 10-2)
3 Colorado State (12-3, 9-2)
4 San Diego State (11-4, 5-3)
5 Nevada (10-7, 5-5)
6 Wyoming (10-5, 4-4)
7 UNLV (6-7, 3-3)
8 Fresno State (5-6, 3-6)
9 Air Force (4-10, 2-8)
10 New Mexico (5-9, 1-9)
11 San Jose State (3-11, 1-9)
Here is all you need to know about tonight's tilt in San Diego:
WHO: Wyoming (10-5, 4-4) at San Diego State (11-4, 5-3)
WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. MST
WHERE: Viejas Arena, San Diego, Calif.,
TV: FS1 (Channel 219 DirecTV and 652 on AT&T)
RADIO: Wyoming affiliates
STREAMING: Fox Sports
BOX SCORE: Live stats
ROSTERS: Wyoming / San Diego State
VEGAS ODDS: SDSU -15.5, O/U 141
HISTORY: SDSU leads the all-time series 44-41 (Cowboys dropped both games in 2020)
HEAD COACHES: Jeff Linder / Brian Dutcher