Aztecs honor Gwynn, rout Wyoming 67-41 for 1st place in MWC
SAN DIEGO (AP) On a night when San Diego State honored the legacy of late two-sport star Tony Gwynn, the Wyoming Cowboys were reduced to overwhelmed spectators because of the absence of star Larry Nance Jr.
Winston Shepard and Aqeel Quinn scored 18 points apiece for the Aztecs, who raced past Wyoming 67-41 Wednesday night to take sole possession of first place in the Mountain West Conference.
The Aztecs (19-6, 9-3) took a 20-point lead before the halfway point of the first half and were up 36-14 at halftime. It was Wyoming's most lopsided loss of the season.
''The night tonight was really about Tony Gwynn,'' Shepard said. ''On a serious note, it's a sad situation with him passing away. I think the crowd, the atmosphere, it was electric in there tonight. The third time we walked on the floor, when it's time to get the game started, I was looking around and I just felt the electricity. It's that type of stuff that gets me going.''
Gwynn, who played basketball and baseball at SDSU in the late 1970s-early 1980s, died of cancer June 16. He was in his 12th season as SDSU's baseball coach following his 20-season, Hall of Fame career with the Padres.
During warmups, the Aztecs wore Gwynn No. 24 T-shirts. Gwynn's daughter, Anisha Gwynn Jones, sang the national anthem. Tony Gwynn Jr., who played for his father at SDSU, helped lead the student section in the ''I Believe'' chant.
Gwynn played point guard for the Aztecs and still holds the school's game (18), season (221) and career (590) assists records.
His No. 19 baseball jersey will be retired before the season-opener against Valparaiso on Friday night. Gwynn wore that number as Aztecs coach and with the Padres.
''This was a feel-good night for the Aztecs,'' coach Steve Fisher said. ''To start with our kids being able to wear the Tony Gwynn T-shirts out on the floor for pregame warmups, for Tony's daughter to sing the national anthem, Tony Jr. to lead the ''I Believe'' chant, so that was very neat to be a part of.
''Obviously, winning played a role in the feel-good part of it, also. We played good. We played very solid defense.''
Derek Cooke Jr. had 13 and Josh Adams 12 for Wyoming (19-6, 8-4).
The Cowboys have suffered their two most lopsided losses without Nance, out with mononucleosis, including a 73-50 loss to Air Force.
''They miss terribly Larry Nance,'' Fisher said. ''It's obvious for all of us. Larry Shyatt is a good friend and a terrific coach, and he's playing with a tank that's not filled the way it was when we went there before, when arguably they were as good as, if not the best, team in the league. And it probably says this guy, Nance, is the best player in league. When he's with them, they're a different team.''
With Nance out, this was a no-contest from early on. San Diego State hit four 3-pointers in the first 7:20. It took a 13-3 lead just 4 1/2 minutes in on Matt Shrigley's 3-pointer and was up 21-5 on Shepard's 3 with 12:40 left in the half. SDSU extended its lead to 25-5 on a reverse layup by freshman Malik Pope not quite 10 minutes into the game.
Quinn made 4 of 5 3-pointers, including three in the first half.
''It was an avalanche of 3-point shots to begin the game,'' Shyatt said. ''I think that put us back on our heels. I take full responsibility.''
Wyoming: The Cowboys were swept by San Diego State for the third time in five seasons.
San Diego State: SDSU's baseball team received Mountain West tournament championship rings at halftime. Gwynn's brother, Chris, who played for the Aztecs and Padres, was presented with Tony Gwynn's ring. ... Also at the game was Washington Nationals right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who will be honored Friday night as one of two SDSU players to win the Golden Spikes Award. ... Former Aztecs hoops star Jamaal Franklin watched from courtside, wearing a Padres No. 19 Gwynn jersey. ... A moment of silence was held for Dean Smith and Jerry Tarkanian, who died this week.
Wyoming hosts San Jose State on Saturday
San Diego State hosts Colorado State on Saturday