After last week’s 0-2 road trip against two of the Mountain West’s best home teams, San Diego State got back to business a night earlier than usual with a 79-51 thrashing of Wyoming.
The rare Tuesday night game gave the Aztecs (19-7, 7-5) a head start on forgetting about the two close losses last week at Colorado State and at UNLV. And it gave them a chance to build some confidence against short-handed Wyoming (18-8, 4-8).
It was a game that was never really in doubt, as the Aztecs went on a 23-1 run in the first half to take a 37-13 halftime lead. The quirkiest stat of the game: The Aztecs shot 15-of-22 in the first half and 15-of-22 in the second half. That was good for 68.2-percent for each half and for the game overall.
The big lead and big run were not all that surprising, considering Wyoming was playing without senior forward Leonard Washington, who missed the game after spraining his ankle last Saturday. They have also been without forward Luke Martinez since December, when he was allegedly involved in a bar fight. What was surprising was that the first half surge was largely fueled by seldom used sophomore wing Dwayne Polee.
Polee scored 11 first-half points and finished with 16 for the game. The transfer from St. John’s University has played sparingly this season despite big expectations. Conference media voted him as the pre-season newcomer of the year, but he has been overshadowed on his own team by fellow newcomer JJ O’Brien and freshmen Winston Shepard and Skylar Spencer.
But SDSU head coach Steve Fisher has praised Polee for keeping an upbeat attitude despite playing a limited role. That apparently paid off tonight, as did a pregame pep talk from James Rahon, who didn’t play after suffering a shoulder injury last Saturday at UNLV.
“(Rahon) pulled me to the side before the game tonight and said I had to step up tonight and that’s exactly what I did,” Polee told the media after the game. “My coaches and my teammates all gave me the confidence to go out there and do what I know I did tonight.”
Polee entered the Fresno State game two Saturdays ago and hit two 3-pointers, then was on the finishing end of an alley-oop from Chase Tapley. Tonight was almost identical, as he hit two 3-pointers, and then showed his jumping ability with a sky-scraping dunk … that was called off as he was whistled for traveling. All the same, it definitely felt like a coming out party for the lanky, 6-foot-7 wing, and it might have earned him more minutes in the last few weeks of the season.
“If he plays close to what he did tonight, we are going to have to keep him in the rotation and give him a few minutes because he was good for us,” Fisher said after the game. “He played well. He’s earned an opportunity to get some minutes with or without James Rahon.”
Though Polee was the star of the night, Jamaal Franklin was back to being his usual self as far as scoring is concerned, leading all players with 20 points. But he wasn’t his usual self at all in terms of efficiency – he was much better. Franklin shot 6-of-7 on field goals – including 2-for-2 on 3-pointers – and shot 6-of-7 from the foul line.
The starting backcourt tandem of Chase Tapley and Xavier Thames was held scoreless, but Tapley finished with seven assists. Thames started for the first time in nine games due to his back injury, and played 26 minutes as he continues to try to get back to his early-season form. Winston Shepard scored 12 points, JJ O’Brien scored 10 and DeShawn Stephens added nine.
Freshman Skylar Spencer thrived without Washington in the game, blocking four shots and scoring eight points.