By TAYLOR QUELLMAN
San Diego State has a chance to prove itself on Wednesday and will do so on national television.
The Aztecs play a late game at No. 25 Wyoming, a team which has plenty of giddy-up.
The Cowboys (15-2, 4-0), undefeated at home, have won seven-straight games.
The Aztecs not only have to match the Cowboys’ talent, but also the challenges by the tip-off time and environment.
The ESPN2 game is on at 9 PM Mountain Standard Time. Then there’s the 7,165-foot altitude in Laramie, which is always a factor.
Last year in Laramie, the Aztecs fell, 68-62 in another late game.
This year the Cowboys shoot 50% from the field, the sixth-best in the Division 1, providing an intriguing match up against SDSU’s defense.
The key battle is in the low post where the Cowboys’ Larry Nance Jr. will face the springboard named Skylar Spencer.
Nance averages 15 points and six rebounds per game and is the Cowboys’ heart-and-soul. Spencer plays lock-down defense on every possession.
An Aztecs win would give them a share of first place and also strong evidence to the rankings committee to again crack the top 25.
If that is not incentive enough, this will likely be the last opportunity for the Aztecs to beat a ranked opponent on the road.
Come March, a team without a quality road win usually doesn’t get much recognition.
It’s clear the Aztecs, who had a week to prepare, need to shine in Laramie and secure an important victory.
They’ll arrive confident after forward Winston Shepard’s best game of the season, coming in last week’s win over visiting New Mexico.
Shepard, who had a season-high nine rebounds, missed but three of 10 shots in scoring 20 points for the first time this season and for the second game in his career.
Mountain West Conference Power Rankings
1. Wyoming (15-2, 4-0)
A seven-game winning streak for the Cowboys puts them atop this week’s rankings. Now that they are nationally ranked the only question is, how long can they stay there?
2. San Diego State (12-4, 2-1)
After the rough loss at Fresno State, the Aztecs collect a much-needed win against New Mexico. Big teams win big games and the Aztecs once again proved this to be true.
3. New Mexico (11-5, 3-1)
Hugh Greenwood had 22 points at Utah State in a big win. An occasional contribution from the bench would really propel the Lobos.
4. Colorado State (15-2, 2-2)
Welcome to the big leagues? After a 14-0 start and being ranked the Rams have lost two of three and are feeling the pressure of quality opponents.
5. Fresno State (8-9, 3-1)
This is not the same team whom lost to Northern Arizona by 21 points in late November. There’s still a lot of work to do for the Bulldogs, but you can’t minimize a 3-1 conference record.
6. UNLV (10-6, 1-2)
Definitely not your typical UNLV team, but it is still a block party in Vegas. The Rebels average eight blocks per game, but gave up 16 offensive rebounds against San Jose State on Saturday night. Too bad what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
7. Utah State (9-7, 2-2)
It is always tough traveling to Logan, but this is not the best Utah State has been. It is the definition of a “middle-of-the-pack” team.
8. Boise State (10-6, 0-3)
Blowing halftime leads in Colorado Springs and Laramie leave the Broncos winless in conference. They still have talent, but their schedule is not getting easier with games against UNLV and New Mexico.
9. Nevada (6-9, 2-1)
Eight-straight losses in non-conference is ugly, but winning at UNLV is an accomplishment of its own.
10. Air Force (8-7, 1-3)
Once the Falcons learn there are two halves in a game they might climb in the power rankings. After a 14-point, first-half deficit at SDSU, they rallied to lose by four. Then on Saturday in Colorado Springs, the Falcons trail by 20 at halftime and end up losing by five.
11. San Jose State (2-14, 0-4)
Every conference has one. The Spartans are a must-win for every MW rival. If only SJSU had more games against Bethesda and St. Katherine, this season might look more optimistic.