LARAMIE, Wyo. — The first missed breakaway layup spun around the basket and circled out and the second caught the iron and fell short.
Anthony Watson led the Western Athletic Conference in scoring this season and became the second-leading scorer in San Diego State history by making an assortment of off-balance, 20-foot jump shots and twisting drives.
However, his two missed layups were turning points in the Aztecs' disappointing 78-76 loss to Texas-El Paso in the semifinal round of the WAC Conference tournament Friday night before 8,138 in the Arena Auditorium.
Watson scored 27 points and had 7 steals, 6 assists and 3 rebounds, but his missed layups probably denied the Aztecs a victory.
"I'm glad we won," said Don Haskins, UTEP coach, "but I feel like we lost. They (San Diego State) played extremely well and probably deserved to win the game."
The Aztecs had the ball and trailed, 76-74, with 44 seconds to play. There were 36 seconds remaining on the 45-second clock.
The Aztecs opted to go for the last shot. With 10 seconds to play and the Wyoming fans screaming for their adopted teams, freshman guard Josh Lowery's 20-footer from the left wing bounced off the rim.
It was the same kind of shot Lowery had made at the buzzer to give the Aztecs a 73-71 win against Utah Thursday.
"We knew they'd be double-teaming Steffond (Johnson)," said Smokey Gaines, Aztec coach, "but Josh didn't move in like we wanted him to. We wanted him to drive or pull up from about 10 feet. But he was wide open and it wasn't a bad shot."
Watson's missed layups hurt even more, though.
"We definitely had our chances," Gaines said. "I don't want to knock anyone, but it goes back to fundamental basketball. Kids get overzealous."
Watson's first missed layup came with the Aztecs leading at 60-57 with 11:17 to play. He made two thunderous dunks on breakaways earlier in the game, including one less than a minute before.
However, on this drive, he couldn't decide whether to dunk or lay the ball in.
As it turned out, he did neither.
"I two thoughts on my mind," Watson said. "When I jumped, I didn't feel good so I tried to lay it in."
The ball spun in and out of the basket.
"I could not believe that he missed it," Haskins said.
Not only did Watson blow the layup, but he committed his fourth foul when he attempted to rebound the miss.
It was a four-point swing and Gaines was forced to take his main scorer out of the game.
The Aztecs had the momentum and their pressing defense, which resulted in 12 steals, had the Miners confused.
When Watson returned 5:09 later, the game was tied, 68-68.
Then, with the score tied at 72-72 and just more than two minutes to play, Watson took a pass from Creon Dorsey and missed a right-handed layup as he raced to the basket from the left side.
"My man (Dorsey) ran under me on that one," Watson said. "He said he was trying to pick Fietl (Dave) and I tried to float past him."
Dorsey fouled Miner guard Hernell Jackson while trying to rebound Watson's shot. Harnell made both free throws in the one-and-one situation to give the Miners a 74-72 lead, a lead which they never relinquished.
UTEP made only four field goals in the final 15:40, but they made 17 of 23 free throws. For the game, UTEP made 20 of 29 foul shots, while the Aztecs made 14 of 25 and only 5 of 10 in the second half.
Johnson scored 18 points and had 6 rebounds, John Martens had 11 points and 6 rebounds and Dorsey had 7 points, 5 assists and 3 steals for the Aztecs.
SDSU forced the Miners to shoot from outside, and UTEP swingman Quintan Gates and center Mike Richmond responded with 22 and 19 points, respectively. Despite playing with four fouls much of the second half, Feitl finished with 13 and Juden Smith added 12.
The loss left the Aztecs with a 10-19 record.
"No doubt, we could have won this ballgame," he said. "But we missed key free throws and layups. I will probably think about Watson's misses 1,000 times before we play our next game."