SAN DIEGO (AP) The struggling San Diego State Aztecs got a glimpse of the future on Wednesday night, and there was a lot to like.
Nolan Narain came off the bench to score a career-high 18 points and fellow reserve Jordan Schakel had 14 points for San Diego State, which raced to a 23-point lead before holding off Wyoming 87-77 Wednesday night.
SDSU’s bench outscored Wyoming’s bench 40-1 in helping the Aztecs to just their third win in nine games.
“You’re talking about a redshirt sophomore and a freshman out there,” coach Brian Dutcher said of Narain and Schakel. “They have to play with no fear and with intelligence. It’s great to get that production off the bench.
“The No. 1 question I get is, ‘Why isn’t Nolan playing?’ He had a shoulder that we didn’t tell anyone about because he wasn’t playing that much anyway,” Dutcher said. “But Nolan played well today and he will continue to play. Any kind of penetration he isn’t afraid to take a charge.”
San Diego State (14-10, 6-7 Mountain West) got only 10 points off the bench in the previous two games combined, both road losses.
“I did my role and my teammates found me when I was open,” Narain said. “It was just attitude and effort. That is all I can do. I feel like if I just play the way I’m supposed to play and fill my role, I would be scoring like this almost every game.”
SDSU earned a measure of revenge against Wyoming (6-10, 7-6), which beat the Aztecs 82-69 at Laramie in the conference opener on Dec. 27. Hayden Dalton scored 36 points in that game.
SDSU, which has had a bad habit of blowing leads this season, came into the game in eighth place in the league. They led 53-31 at halftime and pushed it to 23 points early in the second half.
Wyoming’s Justin James scored 15 of his 26 points in the second half. The Cowboys also got big shots from Hunter Maldonado and Alan Herndon to pull within nine points twice in the final five minutes. Wyoming also made nine straight free throws during the last seven minutes.
But the Aztecs were able to hold off the Cowboys thanks to Jalen McDaniels scoring twice in the final three minutes and Jeremy Hemsley hitting a big jumper.
Dalton scored 20 points on Wednesday night. Herndon had 17 and Maldonado 13.
“I thought the game kind of got away in the first half, so it was hard to go even deeper into our bench,” Wyoming coach Allen Edwards said. “Maybe if the game was closer in the first half we’d have an opportunity to rest those guys but we felt like we were behind the eight ball all night and had to do whatever we needed to do to get ourselves in position to come back and win the basketball game.”
Narain’s previous high was 10 points earlier this season in a loss to Washington State in the Wooden Legacy.
McDaniels scored 16 points, Devin Watson 13 and Malik Pope 10.
Narain, a sophomore, came off the bench to score five points midway through the first half, including converting a 3-point play. Schakel made two 3-pointers during a 12-0 run late in the first half. That run, capped by Trey Kell’s runner in the lane, gave SDSU a 37-21 lead.
Wyoming: After playing the Aztecs close for the first 12 minutes, the Cowboys looked out of sorts in falling behind by double digits. They shot just 37 percent (10 of 27) in the first half, including 33.3 percent (5 of 15) from behind the 3-point line.
San Diego State: Kell, a senior guard, returned after missing nearly four full games with a sprained ankle. He had six points, six assists and four rebounds.
Wyoming hosts San Jose State on Saturday afternoon.
San Diego State hosts UNLV on Saturday afternoon.
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