LARAMIE — Wednesday’s game at the Arena-Auditorium marks a significant milestone. For the first time ever, San Diego State men’s basketball will play a Mountain West game without Steve Fisher as its head coach. Fisher, who took over the Aztecs in 1999, stepped down after last season and was replaced by longtime assistant Brian Dutcher.
But it’s a meaningful game for the Cowboys, too. Wyoming is looking to begin Mountain West play by rebounding from a home loss to Northern Colorado. The Cowboys had recently survived close calls against Eastern Michigan and Texas Southern.
“What I told our guys was if, after this Northern Colorado game, if for some reason we win by two, we continue to go and not probably magnify some of the things that we thought we weren’t doing as a team,” second-year Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “Because that four-game stretch, even though we won three of them, didn’t feel like we were playing good basketball. And I told them, I said, ‘If we won by two, the coaches don’t stay in the locker room until midnight talking about what we need to go forward.’
“If we win by two, I probably go on the road and go recruiting like I had planned to do. But because we came out on the other of it, it was more important to stay in and just think and figure out what we needed to do going forward.”
In hindsight, Edwards said he should have increased the level of intensity in practice.
“Because it was always that next-game preparation and worrying about rest for our guys,” Edwards said. “If you looked at it you would have said, ‘Yes, this is probably the right way to go about it.’ But at the end of the day, you’re saying, ‘Well, you lose that competitive edge, because you’re not doing as much competing in practice and you’re not going as long because of the quick turnaround.’
“So, that was me with practice planning, how we went about it. So, going forward, since being back and even once we get back into the meats and potato of the season, regardless of how quick the turnaround is, we can’t lose that part of practice, to where we’re competing.”
While Wyoming, which went 9-4 in conference play, is coming off a disappointing loss, the Aztecs are coming off a win that just might have been the Mountain West’s best in all of non-conference play. San Diego State just knocked off No. 12 Gonzaga 72-20. The Bulldogs reached last year’s national championship before losing to North Carolina.
“So as a competitor, you’re just saying, ‘Man, it’s a tremendous opportunity,’” Edwards said. “Not only because it’s San Diego State but because of the tradition of San Diego State and what Coach Fisher … and that staff, and Dutch being with them the whole time, what they’ve done over that period to make it what it is today.”
Edwards has noticed some changes in the Aztecs under Dutcher.
“They’re playing a little bit faster, they’re a little bit more skilled, and they shoot it a little bit better, even though the percentages may not have said that over the course of the season,” Edwards said. “... Back when Fish was there, it was one of the things that you’ve got to worry about offensive rebounds, you’ve got to worry about physicality. You’ve got to worry about toughness. And I’m not saying that this team doesn’t have it, but it was just a different brand.”
Wyoming has a week between Wednesday’s game and its second Mountain West conference. The Cowboys’ next conference foe is Nevada, last year’s conference champion, followed by Boise State, which trailed only Nevada and San Diego State in the preseason conference poll.
“You find out a lot here in the first three,” Edwards said. “And what I love about this opportunity and even looking at the league, I don’t go into any game just thinking we’re going to win, but I go into every game saying, ‘This is a winnable game.’ San Diego State is no different.”
Mack limited in practice
Wyoming soon will reach a decision on whether to redshirt freshman Anthony Mack, Edwards said. Mack has not yet played this season because of a concussion.
“He’s now actually out there on the floor with us, but more in non-contact situations, rather than body on body,” Edwards said. “So I think probably after this San Diego State game, we’ll probably have a better feel going into Nevada, because we’ve got another week off there.”