Azctes finding their groove at just the right time

By TAYLOR QUELLMAN

Order has officially been restored in the Mountain West as San Diego State (14-4, 4-1) is in sole possession of second place and controls its own destiny in pursuit of the conference title.

In the midst of their toughest stretch of conference games, the Aztecs are 3-0. Two of those victories came last week, defeating Wyoming on the road 60-52, and storming back to knock off UNLV 53-47.
The challenge continues with two dangerous road games slated next.

If we learned anything this past week, it’s that SDSU may be the most resilient team the university has had in recent years.

Every team suffers injuries at some point in the season, but at no point this season have the Aztecs had their full roster active for a game. To begin the season Matt Shrigley was sidelined. When he was ready to play, the team’s second-leading scorer, Aqeel Quinn, goes down. Add in the tragic loss of Dwayne Polee II and the baby steps being taken to insert Malik Pope into the rotation, and the Aztecs have been forced to overcome repeated obstacles.

They now seem to be hitting their stride at the perfect time.

SDSU looks to keep the good times rolling this week as it travels to Air Force and Colorado State. The “Rocky Mountain” trip is arguably the most difficult back-to-back games a team can play in the Mountain West.

One positive about the schedule breakdown is that the Aztecs get it out of the way early in conference play.

The opposite is that Colorado State is playing its best basketball of the season, winning three straight.

Colorado State is the most well-rounded team in the MW. The Rams shoot 36% from 3-point range, average 15 assists and 73 points per game. In two of its last three games, it tallied over 90 points. The Aztecs will need to bring their pressure defense to contain the high-powered Rams.

Colorado State is led by forward J.J. Avila, with a 15-point and seven assist average per game; he’s a match-up nightmare for most opponents.
After holding UNLV’s star Christian Wood to only two points on Saturday, JJ O’Brien seems be ready for the test of shutting down Avila.

Mountain West Conference Power Rankings

1. San Diego State (14-4, 4-1) +1

Two more wins against the elite teams in the conference put the Aztecs atop the power rankings. SDSU has held MW foes to an average of 50 points per game.

2. Wyoming (16-3, 5-1) -1

After a home loss to SDSU the Cowboys escape Fresno State with a thrilling triple OT win. That leaves them in first with a 5-1 conference record.

3. Colorado State (17-2, 4-2) +1

The Rams are averaging 86 points per game over their last three outings. They could not ask for a better way to rebound from their two-game losing streak. As a bonus the Rams have a week to prepare for their home test against San Diego State.

4. New Mexico (12-6, 4-2) -1

The Pit was silenced Sunday night when the Broncos overcame an early deficit to win by 10. Hugh Greenwood shooting 3 for 14 did not the cause either.

5. Fresno State (9-10, 4-2) +0

A triple overtime loss to Wyoming is the difference between first and fifth place in the MW. Marvelle Harris is making a strong push for conference MVP, averaging 21 points per game in MW play.

6. Boise State (12-6, 2-3) +2

Derrick Marks propelled the Broncos two spots in the power rankings by himself, scoring 28 points against UNLV and 31 at New Mexico. With two games against the bottom of the conference coming up the Boise could be over .500 next week.

7. Utah State (10-7, 3-2) +0

The Aggies look to escape from the middle of the pack with two games in the state of Nevada.

8. UNLV (10-8, 1-4) -2

A young team with so much talent finds itself 1-4 in conference play. If the Rebels can ever become consistent on offense for a whole game they will be the spoiler of the MW.

9. Nevada (6-10, 2-2) +0

The Wolfpack were outscored by 56 points, in one game. A 98-42 loss to Colorado State could kill any team’s confidence, as even the Rams’ bench outscored Nevada.

10. Air Force (8-9, 1-4) +0

A victory against San Joes State is the only thing keeping the Falcons our of the cellar. A home win against SDSU would be a perfect remedy for their recent struggles.

11. San Joes State (2-16, 0-6) +0

The glimmer of light for San Jose State is only trailing by two points at halftime against Fresno. It did lose the game by 11, but this was by far the best game it played all season.

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