The San Diego State basketball team that faces BYU tonight is not the same team that BYU beat by 12 points in San Diego a month ago.
A recent change in the starting lineup and the return of an injured player have elevated the Aztecs (9-10 overall, 4-5 WAC) from the WAC depths into the team-to-be-reckoned-with category.Last Saturday against Wyoming, Aztec coach Jim Brandenburg started sophomore guard Ray Barefield instead of freshman Chris McKinney and gave Barefield the unenviable assignment of guarding dangerous Cowboy guard Maurice Alexander.
Barefield, making his first WAC start, held Alexander to just three points on one-of-seven shooting from the field. Alexander also committed five turnovers and fouled out of the game as the Aztecs upset the 'Pokes.
Another big factor in the Wyoming game was the return of forward Keith Balzer. A 6-foot-8, 205-pound transfer from Imperial Valley (Calif.) Community College, Balzer made seven of 10 shots and scored 17 points.
What all this means is that one can't apply the usual logic to tonight's 7:30 game in the Marriott Center. As a rule, you figure that if a team can beat another team on the road, it should be able to beat that team at home.
It's OK for fans to think that way, or even for sportswriters, but BYU Coach Roger Reid would cringe at the idea of his players thinking that way.
"They (SDSU) are a much improved team, they're coming off a big weekend, and I'm approaching them like a challenging foe," Reid said. "We don't think we're talented enough to overlook anyone."One area the Cougars might be tempted to take for granted is the boards. They outrebounded the Aztecs by 12 in San Diego, but since then SDSU has only been beaten in that category once. Wyoming, which outrebounded BYU twice, was beaten on the boards by the Aztecs.
BYU (13-10, 7-3) needs this game to remain in contention for the WAC title. With two games against league-leader Utah and a road game against New Mexico still on the schedule, the Cougars can't afford a home loss this week.
The game will be rebroadcast on KBYU-TV (Channel 11) at 10:30 tonight.
COUGAR NOTES: A review of the game film resulted in BYU center Shawn Bradley being credited with three blocked shots in last week's UTEP game, instead of the one that the Miner stats crew saw . . . Bradley continues to lead the NCAA in blocked shots, with 134, but his average (5.8) has dropped below David Robinson's single-season record of 5.9 . . . As of the start of this week, BYU's 12 non-conference opponents had a combined winning percentage of .661.