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Wyoming exposes No. 5 San Diego State’s fatal flaws

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Wyoming allowed 21 offensive rebounds to No. 5 San Diego State on Tuesday night, but the Aztecs couldn’t do enough damage with their second chances as the Pokes snapped the Aztecs’ 20-game winning streak, 68-62.

It was the first loss for SDSU since the second game of the season, when Steve Fisher’s club fell to Arizona.

But it was a concerning loss for the Aztecs, one that will raise the red flags that surround this team even higher.

San Diego State is built around their ability to defend and their strength on the offensive glass. They aren’t, however, a very good shooting team. In fact, outside of Xavier Thames, who is having an all-american caliber season, this team has some serious scoring deficiencies. They’ve been exposed before — at Utah State, where SDSU won in overtime, and at Boise State, where they erased a 13-point deficit late in the second half, among others — but Thames was to bail them out down the stretch.

That didn’t happen on Tuesday.

Thames had 13 points, but he was just 3-for-15 from the floor, 0-for-7 from three, and didn’t make his first field goal until SDSU was already down by 14 points. Wyoming simply packed their defense in a 2-3 zone, daring the likes of Winston Shepard, J.J. O’Brien and Dwayne Polee to try to beat them from the outside, and it worked.

And that’s why SDSU will be a risky Final Four pick. They simply are not consistent enough on the offensive end of the floor, and on the nights where teams find a way to slow down Thames, they’re going to be in trouble.

The other concern is that SDSU was once again carved up defensively. Wyoming shot 57.9% from the floor, getting dunk after dunk in the second half. It would be easy to write that off as an altitude issue, except for the fact that it happened at Boise State for the first 35 minutes as well.

The Aztecs are a good team, but they aren’t good enough to overcome a bad night defensively and an off-night from Xavier Thames.

Wyoming proved it.

UNLV’s Stephen Zimmerman out with a knee injury

UNLV forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. shoots against San Diego State during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Las Vegas. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
(L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
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The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.

The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.

They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.

That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.

So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.

Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:

VIDEO: Buddy Hield is ‘all money’ on game-winning three vs. No. 24 Texas

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) takes a shot over Oklahoma State forward Chris Oliver during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
(AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
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With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.

At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes

“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:

“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”

“It’s all money.”

Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.

Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .

Want to talk about coaching luxuries?

Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.