No. 5 San Diego State did something on Tuesday night it hadn't done since November: lost.
The Aztecs (21-2, 10-1 MW) were defeated by the Wyoming Cowboys (15-9, 6-5 MW), 68-62, in Laramie, Wyo.
Larry Nance Jr. described the feeling for the Cowboys to the Associated Press (via ESPN):
"Their only other loss was to Arizona," Nance said. "I mean, to be in that category is awesome, you know? Fifth-ranked team, the fans storming the court like they did, it was spectacular."
There must be something in the water at the Arena-Auditorium, as SDSU is only 8-26 there throughout its history, per ESPN Stats & Info:
No. 5 San Diego State is down 8 with 3:30 to play; entered game 8-25 all-time at Wyoming. http://t.co/hRX6g2Y2Tp— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 12, 2014
On the basis of that fact, you could argue that this isn't even an upset. But it's the first time the Cowboys have beaten a Top Five team since 1998:
Wyoming snaps San Diego State's 20-game winning streak; Cowboys 1st win vs Top-5 opponent since Feb. 12, 1998. #SDSUvsWYO— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 12, 2014
For much of the game, Wyoming dominated the Mountain West-leading Aztecs. The Cowboys scored at will on the offensive end, and then on the defensive end, they stifled SDSU's best scoring threats just enough.
San Diego State was down 32-23 at halftime, and the deficit grew to as many as 16 points, at 52-36, with 7:12 to play in the game. The Aztecs got to within four points, 66-62, with 41 seconds to go, but that's as close as they would get the rest of the way.
Coming into the game, Wyoming ranked third in the Mountain West Conference in free-throw shooting (73.0 percent). That would come into play as the game wound down and San Diego State was forced to foul.
As a team, Wyoming shot 19-of-26 from the line, which isn't perfect, yet was more than enough to stave off SDSU.
This game was a tale of two offenses.
The Aztecs had no answers for Wyoming's hot shooters. As a team, the Cowboys were an impressive 22-of-38 from the floor, including 5-of-12 from behind the arc.
Sharpshooter Riley Grabau sparked the Cowboys' upset bid. The junior guard came into the game shooting 48.3 percent from the three-point line. He finished 3-of-6 from behind the arc, helping him put up 17 points to lead all scorers.
However, as Matt Trabold of WHAM 13 in Rochester, N.Y., pointed out, Grabau helped the Cowboys with his passing as well as his shooting:
Wyoming's Grabau may have led nation in 3FG% for part of season, but long outlet to Josh Adams vs. SDSU showed biggest asset: floor general.— Matt Trabold (@TrabsMatt) February 12, 2014
Larry Nance Jr. added 14 points of his own. The junior forward did a little bit of everything, picking up six rebounds, two assists and three blocks as well.
On the other side, San Diego State only managed to shoot 22-of-58 from the field and 5-of-21 from three-point range. To make things worse, the Aztecs turned the ball over 13 times.
The good news for Aztecs star Xavier Thames is that he became the 29th player in school history to eclipse 1,000 points, per GoAztecs.com:
Xavier Thames is the 29th player in school history and the 12th under Fisher to score 1,000 points.— GoAztecs.com (@GoAztecs) February 12, 2014
The bad news for the senior guard is that he did so in one of the worst games of his impressive career. Thames was 3-of-16 from the floor. His saving grace was the 7-for-9 clip he posted from the free-throw line, ultimately finishing with 13 points.
A total of five Aztecs players scored in double figures, but another four failed to score a single point, with another getting only three points.
Although this loss stings, it does little to the Aztecs over the long term. As long as San Diego State recovers the form it showed coming into Tuesday night, it's a lock to earn a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
"In the first time in 21 games we have a feeling we haven't had. We don't want to feel it again." - Steve Fisher during postgame show.— Ruben Meza (@RubenMezaASR) February 12, 2014
"As bad as our fans feel back home, we are quadruple that." - Steve Fisher during postgame show.— Ruben Meza (@RubenMezaASR) February 12, 2014
The future isn't so assured for Wyoming. The Cowboys will need to use this win as a springboard for the rest of the season. They don't have a ton of signature wins, so they still have work to do when it comes to bolstering their resume for the Big Dance.