As the Mountain West Conference schedule began, the Aztecs cruised through their first two league games. With SDSU winning both by 12.5 points per game, it would be easy to understand if the Aztecs came in overconfident against an ailing Cowboys team.
Wyoming, a team picked to finish 1st in the conference along with SDSU, us expected was missing several very key players to their success. The shorthanded Cowboys had limped into Saturday’s matchup at just a 5-9 record.
Coach Dutcher and the Aztecs may have said all the right things before the game, but when you face an opponent struggling to get it going as much as Wyoming, you have to feel good about your chances. Perhaps they felt a little too good.
Unsurprisingly, San Diego State struggled against the short-handed Cowboys. The home team down three starters was energized by Saturday’s Nationally televised matchup. They played tough and were a couple tough breaks away from pulling off the upset against the Aztecs.
The close loss was indeed a microcosm of the Cowboys season so far. The game was back & forth throughout, as depth, compounded by the loss of guard Brendan Wenzel during the game with a knee injury, became a factor.
Like they have all year, the Aztecs wore their opponent down. The short-handed Cowboys were no exception as Lamont Butler and SDSU escaped with an 80-75 victory.
First Half Firepower
In the first half defense was optional. Both teams shot over 55% burning up the nets on both sides of the court. It was a back and forth effort as each team put together runs and would trade off the lead.
San Diego State was hot from beyond the arc, but their defense could not step up, as they kept the Cowboys in the game by putting the Cowboys at the line nine times in the first half.
This downside of the game kept their deficit to just one as the Cowboys hit a a shot on their last possession to close out the half. At the intermission the Aztecs held a slim lead 43-42.
When Things Get Cold–Turn Up the Heat
San Diego State’s hot shooting cooled off in the second half—unfortunately the Cowboys’ guns only got hotter. Unable to put much distance between themselves and Wyoming, the Aztecs defense had to focus in and do the little things that makes them successful.
Causing turnovers and not allowing second chance opportunities quickly became the focus. Despite the Cowboys shooting the roof off the building, the defense tightened up and allowed them to shoot 1/3 less than they did in the first half.
Career Night for Lamont Butler
Lamont Butler led the way for San Diego State on this night. Hitting on 8 of 15 shots and 5 of 11 three pointers, Butler finished with a game and career-high 23 points. Not to be undermined was his ability to finish with zero turnovers.
The breakout night for Butler was undoubtedly a catalyst for the victory. This was crucial as Darrion Trammell (1-5 FG, 4 points, 2 assists) the team’s leading scorer struggled to get his shot off with much taller & longer defenders crowding his space.
Having Bradley & Trammell as the 1-2 scoring options has become a staple of the offense this season. But having a third option to step up is always desired. On this night Butler’s effectiveness of taking what the defense was giving and being able to step-up for the team is a great sign.
Coffee is for Closers
To the excitement of the limited crowd in attendance, the game stayed tight throughout. The Aztecs would not be able to find any breathing room until Matt Bradley made shots on back to back possessions.
The flurry of scores by the senior leader Bradley, continued a MW Conference MVP type of run for the Rancho Cucamonga product. The score went from 70-69 to 75-70 in a matter of moments.
Bradley closed the game with 18 points. Meanwhile after some clutch stops and some free throws to put the game away, the Aztecs escaped Laramie with a victory.
A bright spot of the action for SDSU was the play of transfer, Jaedon LeDee. His performance was certainly in the face of Nathan Mensah’s struggles who turned an ankle in the 1st half. LeDee’s showing in Laramie was a noteworthy eight points and nine rebounds.
Short-handed Wyoming put forth a valiant effort. Hunter Maldonado expectedly led the Cowboys with 20 points. Xavier DuSell and Jeremiah Oden each got 15 points. Wenzel finished with 14 points before leaving with the knee injury to round out the double-digit scorers.
San Diego State comes home to face off against a very hot Nevada Wolfpack team at Viejas Arena on Tuesday. The matchup though early in the season, is confirmed to be for 1st place of the Mountain West.