The Aztecs played their first game in 2023 against the Wyoming Cowboys and came into the arena in Laramie, Wyoming, where they have played 39 games and only won 12 of them. SDSU was looking to continue their winning streak to five games and to stay undefeated in conference play.
Coming into the game, the Red and Black led the overall series versus the Cowboys 48-41 and were riding an eight-game winning streak against Wyoming (two of the eight wins were played in Laramie). Head coach Brian Dutcher has had a great record versus Wyoming in his tenure with the Aztecs, having an 8-1 record overall and 2-1 in away games.
The last time the two teams met was on Feb. 28, 2022, when SDSU won 73-66 in Wyoming behind a 30-point performance from Matt Bradley, where he went five for nine from three-point range in almost 33 minutes played.
“It was my first time in Wyoming, and the biggest selling pitch was the elevation,” Bradley said yesterday during a team practice. “You definitely feel it once you get there, but we did a good job preparing beforehand. I’m excited to go back up there.”
The Cowboys were without their leading scorer Nathan Reynolds due to a concussion, Hunter Thompson due to an illness who leads the team in blocks, and two others.
The Cowboys were on a four-game losing streak heading into the contest and lost a nail-biter against the New Mexico Lobos 76-75 on New Year’s Eve. That win kept the Lobos’ undefeated streak alive until they played Fresno State on Tuesday and lost 71-67. Despite Wyoming’s poor start to the season, they were above .500 at home.
“They are struggling with injuries and things that you can’t anticipate,” Dutcher said yesterday, reflecting on Wyoming’s season so far. “We are preparing for any scenario when we go to Wyoming; we know it is a tough place to play [in], but we’ll be ready to go.”
It was a tough place for them to play in, but they gutted out an 80-75 victory over the Cowboys behind Lamont Butler’s career-high in scoring and Bradley’s terrific second-half performance as they move to 12-3 overall and 3-0 in the conference.
In the first 4:20 of play, Butler made nine points beyond the arc for the Aztecs, while Brendan Wenzel got six points beyond the arc for the Cowboys, which helped keep the game close. SDSU led 14-11.
Both teams kept it close for about five minutes until the 8:48 mark when Nathan Mensah made a dunk to extend the Aztecs lead to four, then Adam Seiko drained a three to make it 31-24.
Xavier Dusell and Jeremiah Oden were able to bring Wyoming within one, but then Bradley put in a three and a mid-range jumper to give the Aztecs a six-point lead.
SDSU was able to keep the lead, but three late fouls by the Red and Black gave the Cowboys a chance to keep the game close, as they capitalized on those fouls and went four for five from the charity stripe.
Brendan Wenzel ended the first half with a three to bring Wyoming within one, and the Aztecs led 43-42.
SDSU got eight of their 17 field goals beyond the arc and had more points off the bench than the Cowboys (12 to four) in the first half.
Ten of Wyoming’s 15 field goals came within the arc, as they had more points in the paint than the Aztecs (18 to 14) in the first 20 minutes.
No Aztec made it into double digits at the end of the first half, but the Cowboys had two of their players in double digits. Wenzel and Oden both had 11 points and shot a combined nine for 11 from the field.
Butler got the second half started with a mid-range jumper to put him in double-digits, then Hunter Maldonado nailed a three for Wyoming to tie the game at 45-45.
Both teams were exchanging lead changes for about three minutes until the 15:05 mark, when Micah Parrish hit a three to make it 54-50.
The Cowboys would then go on a 7-0 run with two lay-ups from Oden and Maldonado, then a three-pointer by Dusell. Butler ended the Cowboys’ run with a three to tie the game at 57-57.
After both teams started to exchange lead changes for about a minute, Dusell drilled a three at the 7:46 mark to give Wyoming a 64-62 lead.
Bradley was able to tie the game 64-64 with a lay-up, but then the Cowboys were able to keep a lead for almost two minutes until Jaedon LeDee put in a lay-up to give the Aztecs the lead back. SDSU led 70-69 with 4:33 remaining and never gave it up.
The Aztecs survived an injured Wyoming team in a 80-75 victory and won their ninth straight game against the Cowboys and dropped Wyoming to 5-10 overall and 0-3 in the conference.
“We fought to the end,” Dutcher said postgame. “To our guys’ credit, they (SDSU) were mentally tough. Thank god they (Wyoming) were short-handed.”
Despite the win, SDSU shot 50% from the field, which was 8% less than the Cowboys shot.
Butler scored a career-high 23 points, shooting eight for 15 from the field and five for 11 from beyond the arc. Bradley got most of his points in the second half and finished with 18 points and went seven for 13 from the field.
“We got it done tonight,” Butler said postgame. “I’ve been putting in the work, and it showed today.”
Maldonado was impressive for the Cowboys, scoring 20 points and shooting seven for 12 from the field and five for eight from the charity stripes. Oden, Dusell, and Wenzel all were in double-digits and shot a combined 15 for 19 from the field.
The Aztecs won on the glass (29 to 24 in rebounds) and got more points off of turnovers (20 to 16).
The Aztecs head back home to Viejas Arena to take on the Nevada Wolf Pack, who are 14-3 and 4-0 in the conference, at 8 PM PST on Tuesday, January 10.