Winston Shepard has a night to remember against the Rams

by Patrick Carr, Senior Staff Columnist

I’ve only ever seen a basketball player air ball a layup once. That was San Diego State men’s basketball junior forward Winston Shepard.

In the waning moments on Saturday against Colorado State University with a chance to firmly put SDSU on top of the conference, Shepard made no mistake as he threw down a slam dunk that sent the Aztecs up.

That capped another normal week in the wild, wild Mountain West, which was up for grabs after SDSU lost in Boise last week. But after the dust settled on Saturday, the conference was back in the Aztecs’ control.

That’s thanks in part to the much-maligned, sometimes misunderstood, yet equally gifted Shepard.

Last Wednesday night, Shepard had 18 points in 25 minutes in a one-sided 67-41 win against the University of Wyoming. He shot 7-13 from the floor, which was far better than his near 40-percent field goal percentage this season.

Then on Saturday against CSU, with a dislocated left pinky finger, he grabbed the Rams by the horns and threw them around with a stunning 19-point, 11-rebound performance to help SDSU (20-6, 10-3 MW) to a 72-63 win that keeps the Aztecs atop the MW.

Shepard dislocated his finger at some point in the first half, but something must have ignited him.

The Rams weren’t going away despite the obvious separation on the scoreboard. They had eight offensive rebounds at halftime to the Aztecs’ two.

Shepard grabbed four offensive rebounds in the second half, five total.

Photo by Monica Linzmeier, Editor in Chief

That didn’t lead the team, but the 19 points, 11 rebounds, 38 minutes played and even the six fouls drawn did lead the team.

“Winston has had back-to-back games where even the naysayers say, ‘Way to go, Winston,’” SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said after the game.

Shepard started fast, grabbing six of the Aztecs’ first eight points within the first four and a half minutes.

Later in the first half, the Rams had the ball down 28-24, trying to find an opening in SDSU’s stout defense. With the shot clock winding down and the crowd noise increasing, CSU redshirt-sophomore guard John Gillon’s shot was blocked by junior forward Skylar Spencer.

Senior forward J.J. O’Brien grabbed the rebound, passed it to freshman guard Trey Kell, who found Shepard in the left corner behind the arc.

Swish, and Viejas Arena’s roof went into orbit.

That was part of an 11-2 run near the end of the first half that made the game a formality.

Senior guard Aqeel Quinn, who was in foul trouble all night long, missed a 3-pointer early in the second half. Guess who was there for the cleanup and put-back? Shepard.

Kell drove baseline and put up a floater that rolled off the rim. Shepard was waiting for the instant tip-in.

“My teammates were hitting me and I think I just made a concerted effort to rebound. I think that got me going,” Shepard said.