Mountain West Conference roundup

New Mexico

(14-2, 1-0 MWC)

Conference Rank-No. 1

With a relatively light non-conference schedule, the question on everyone’s mind is, “How good are these guys?” They skated through their non-conference games with only two losses to the likes of No. 4 Wake Forest and Oregon.

The Lobos are led by senior forward Danny Granger. Granger is second behind Utah’s Andrew Bogut in the Mountain West Conference in both scoring and rebounding with averages of 19.1 points and 8.9 rebounds. He leads the MWC in steals. Granger was recently sidelined with torn cartilage in his right knee, but he is expected to return sometime next week.

Best Win

New Mexico 77-Tennessee 58

Dec. 18, 2004

Granger made 17 of his 20 points in the second half to stave off a late comeback by the Volunteers. The win proved that the Lobos were for real, as they defeated a legitimate Southeastern Conference opponent.

Toughest Loss

Oregon 79-New Mexico 75

Nov. 23, 2004

The Lobos came very close to defeating a solid PAC-10 team on the road. Granger’s 19 points and 15 rebounds weren’t enough to get the job done in the end as the Ducks rallied for the victory in the waning minutes of the game.

Air Force

(10-6, 1-0)

Conference Rank-No. 3

After a miracle conference championship last year, and losing head coach Joe Scott to Princeton during the offseason, the Falcons came into this season as a huge question mark.

With games against several top 25 teams during its non-conference schedule, Air Force has yet to score a big win. Thus far, the Falcons have suffered losses to No. 8 Georgia Tech, No. 22 Marquette, and No. 24 Iowa.

Air Force plays a unique brand of defensive basketball, as evidenced by the team’s statistics. The Falcons lead the MWC in scoring defense, but rank dead last in scoring offense.

Best Win

Air Force 58-CSU 53

Jan. 8, 2005

Antoine Hood led the team with 24 points, seven rebounds and three assists to keep his team undefeated in conference play.

Toughest Loss

St. Mary’s 59-Air Force 58

The Falcons came within a point of defeating the same team that already has a win against No. 16 Gonzaga. Matt McGraw and Tim Welch both missed potential game-winners in the final seconds of the game.

San Diego State

(7-7, 1-0)

Conference Rank-No. 4

Though the Aztecs picked up a win against BYU in their first conference game, SDSU has struggled this season. Playing a West-Coast heavy non-conference schedule, the Aztecs have suffered losses to the likes of California, No. 14 Washington, UC Santa Barbara and Loyola Marymount.

SDSU is led by sophomores Marcus Slaughter and Brandon Heath. Slaughter, the 6-foot-8-inch forward, averages 18.4 points and 8.6 rebounds per contest. Heath, a quick guard with a knack for getting to the basket, is currently averaging 16.9 points per game.

Best Win

SDSU 63-Cal State Fullerton 60

Dec. 22, 2004

The Aztecs snapped a four-game losing streak as Marcus Slaughter scored 15 points and hauled in 13 rebounds. Brandon Heath made two free throws with only seven seconds left on the clock to seal the victory.

Toughest Loss

Loyola Marymount 72-SDSU 68

Dec. 18, 2004

SDSU ran its season-worst losing streak to four games as it lost a thriller in the final minutes of the game. Slaughter scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a late surge by Loyola.

Colorado State

(8-6, 0-1)

Conference Rank-No. 5

Two years removed from the Rams’ miraculous run to the MWC tournament championship, Colorado State is a team going through an identity crisis.

Senior center Matt Nelson, who led his team to the unlikely championship two years ago, is still with the Rams. Nelson’s 15.4 points and 5.7 rebounds are both tops on his team.

The Rams played an unremarkable non-conference schedule and failed to score any meaningful victories.

Toughest Loss #1

Auburn 79-CSU 76 (OT)

Nov. 30, 2004

Auburn needed a two-point jump shot to tie the game with 25 seconds left to force overtime. Colorado State failed to pick up the critical road win against an SEC opponent when Auburn hit four consecutive free throws in overtime to finish off the Rams for good.

Toughest Loss #2

Purdue 69-CSU 68

Dec. 11, 2004

Despite trailing for most of the second half, Colorado State made a charge in the final minutes to take a one-point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game. On the ensuing possession, Purdue was fouled and hit both free throws to regain the lead. With 8.9 seconds, the Rams got the ball, but Colorado State had the ball stolen on the inbounds play and the Boilermakers walked away with the ‘W.’

Wyoming

(8-6, 0-1)

Conference Rank-No. 6

The Cowboys have had an up and down non-conference season that featured wins against the likes of Princeton and Washington State, but also included losses to teams like San Diego and Dayton.

Wyoming is led by seniors Jay Straight and Alex Dunn. Straight ranks in the top five in the conference in scoring with 18 points per game, while Dunn is among the MWC’s leading rebounders with 8.8 per game.

Even with a loss to New Mexico in its first conference game, Wyoming still has a legitimate shot at contending for the conference crown.

Best Win

Wyoming 64-Princeton 59 (2OT)

Nov. 22, 2004

Wyoming’s sophomore guard Steve Leven scored 29 points, including four three-pointers to lead the Cowboys past Princeton in double-overtime. Straight scored 15 and Dunn hauled in 15 rebounds.

Toughest Loss

San Diego 95-Wyoming 88

Dec. 28, 2004

The Cowboys suffered their first home loss of the season as the Toreros came to Laramie and made an embarrassment out of the home team. Wyoming trailed by as many as 15 in the second half before making a late run to make the score respectable. Dunn scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

UNLV

(7-6, 0-1)

Conference Rank-No. 7

Picked to win the conference, the Rebels have been somewhat inconsistent during the early part of this season. UNLV has posted wins against big conference schools like Cal, Oregon State and Auburn, but has managed to lose all of its non-conference games against top-25 teams.

After losing badly to the Utes on the road in the conference opener, the verdict is still out on how good this team really is.

UNLV is led by senior forwards Odartey Blankson and Romel Beck. Both are among the conference’s leading scorers with averages above 16 points. Blankson is also one of the MWC’s top rebounders with 8.7 per game.

Best Win

UNLV 73-Cal 72

Dec. 1, 2004

Rarely used forward Andy Hannan scored the game-winning field goal with an 18-foot jumper with only .4 seconds remaining in the game. The Rebels posted a second straight win after dropping their season opener to St. Mary’s.

Toughest Loss

Oklahoma St. 79-UNLV 67

Dec. 18, 2004

The Rebels proved they could hang with a top-ranked team as they made this mid-December battle with No. 6 Oklahoma State interesting. The Cowboys led throughout, but a late surge by UNLV brought the Rebels to within eight with less than two minutes remaining.

BYU

(6-10, 0-1)

Conference Rank-Dead Last

With one of the MWC’s toughest non-conference schedules, the Cougars have demonstrated that they can’t compete with the elite teams in the country. Whether they will be equally horrible during conference play is uncertain, but likely.

BYU has no player averaging above 14 points per game and no players averaging more than six rebounds per game. Mike Hall, the Cougar’s senior guard, is the team leading scorer with 13.7 points per contest.

Best Win

N/A

Toughest Loss

Utah State 84-BYU 62

Dec. 18, 2004

Although the Utes also lost to the Aggies, the Cougars lost to the Aggies at home and they never even competed in the game. The game demonstrated the general apathy of this year’s Cougar squad-a team with no hopes of winning much at all.

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