SDSU men’s basketball clash with Aggies in Mountain West Tournament quarterfinals

by Anthony Reclusado, Assistant Sports Editor

Three wins in three days.

That is the model the San Diego State men’s basketball team (23-8, 16-2 Mountain West) will need to accomplish if it wants to raise the MW Tournament trophy in Las Vegas and secure the coveted automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The first test for the Aztecs will be Utah State (16-14, 7-11 MW), which beat the University of Wyoming, 88-70, to advance to the quarterfinals.

“We are playing a team that is hot in Utah State,” head coach Steve Fisher said. “… They got a huge lead today and soundly beat a very good Wyoming team.”

The Aggies pulled out to a 41-16 lead in the first half and took a 17-point lead into halftime. The Cowboys did cut USU’s lead to seven in the second half, but were never able to pressure the Aggies any further.

SDSU and USU have not met since Jan. 23, when SDSU held a seven-point lead over the final 12:47 to take a 70-55 win.

However, the Cowboys showed last year the regular season means nothing heading into postseason play, as they beat the Aztecs in the MW championship game after being swept by an average of 17 points in the regular season.

Of course Wyoming had Larry Nance Jr. last season, but the Aggies sport a three-headed beast in guards Shane Rector and Chris Smith and wing Jalen Moore. The trio combined for 63 points against the Cowboys, shooting 21 for 42 from the field and 9 for 18 from beyond the arc.

“They can score the ball from a lot of spots and that makes them dangerous,” Fisher said. “Jalen Moore is as good as a player as there is in this league.”

This game will then hinge on whether SDSU’s trio — freshman guard Jeremy Hemsley, sophomore guard Trey Kell and senior forward Winston Shepard — can keep up with Rector, Smith and Moore, or if the Aggies can crack the Aztecs’ defensive code.

History is on the side of the red and black as they were able to limit the trio to an average of 37.5 points on 39-percent shooting in their two games this season. And no team has been able to stop Hemsley, Kell and Shepard from contributing in some aspect of the game.

The three have led all Aztec scorers in 30 of their 31 games and they account for 56 percent of the team’s assists.

However, history holds no loyalty and SDSU holds its own demons in the past.

While their last two games have been the exception, the Aztecs had a long history over the regular season to stall offensively. In their two conference losses alone SDSU blew two double-digit leads against the Bulldogs in both halves and a nine-point lead with 1:40 left against Boise State.

“There will be rough patches tomorrow and we will have to be able to get through them,” Fisher said.

The game will tip off on March 10, at 12 p.m. in the Thomas and Mack Center and will broadcast on CBS Sports Network and The Mighty 1090.

Follow along @DAztecSports and @thedailyaztec for live updates and postgame coverage.