EL PASO — When it comes to sleep, troubled minds overrule weary bodies.
That can explain better than any theory of basketball what happened to San Diego State this weekend.
The Aztecs ended their two-games-in-two-nights Western Athletic Conference road swing with a 68-61 loss at Texas El Paso Saturday night in front of 11,620 at the Special Events Center.
The defeat ended a restless 24 hours for the Aztecs (9-13, 2-8 in the WAC) that began the night before with an eight-point loss at New Mexico.
In between, the Aztecs endured the frustration of airline delays, the indignity of the verbal insults of UTEP crowd and, most troubling, the physical and emotional drain of an insomnia-filled night.
Forgetting about the defeat of the night before is not made easier by the immediacy of another game.
No one appeared more affected by those circumstances than point guard Bryan Williams and forward Rodney Hawkins.
Williams committed 7 turnovers and matched his season-low with 2 points.
"I didn't sleep at all," Williams said. "I spent the whole night thinking about the mistakes I had made, and what I could do better. I'm not comfortable out there. I don't feel right on the court."
After a 23-point, 11-rebound performance in the 93-85 loss at New Mexico, Hawkins had only 4 rebounds and a season-low 4 points against the Miners (19-6, 8-4).
He had spend much of the night before, sitting up in his hotel room, flipping through the television channels on his remote control in hopes that something on the screen could help put his troubled mind to rest.
"None of us hardly slept at all," Hawkins said. "I stayed up almost the whole night watching television. I finally nodded off for about an hour, but by the time I did, it was time to get up."
It was an 8 a.m. wake-up call that he could have just as soon ignored.
The Aztecs had planned to leave on a 10 a.m. flight for El Paso, but the flight was canceled, leaving them to sit in the Albuquerque airport for two hours waiting for the next scheduled flight. They arrived in El Paso too late for their usual game-day shoot-around.
The situation left SDSU Coach Jim Brandenburg upset at the conference's scheduling of road games on consecutive nights.
"You just can't play back-to-back games," Brandenburg said. "We wanted to press and do some other things at the end, but we couldn't. We were too tired. We just ran out of gas."
This was the second time the Aztecs had faced that quirk in the schedule and the results were just as they were when the played Air Force and Colorado State three weeks ago--two games, two nights, two losses.
But unlike that weekend, which ended with Colorado State routing the Aztecs, 78-54, while an usually subdued Brandenburg quietly absorbed the defeat, SDSU stayed close almost until the end with the help of a season-high 24 points from center Mitch McMullen.
SDSU did so despite reduced practice, tired legs and the distractions of playing in front of the vocal UTEP fans on senior night.
This was the last home game for the Miners' three seniors--guard Chris Blocker, and forwards Wayne Campbell and Chris Sandle. They responded by scoring in double figures, led by Blocker's 22 points. Campbell and Sandle had 14 points apiece. Their showing helped make up for the absence of point guard Tim Hardaway, who missed all but the last minute of play because of a sprained ankle.
Blocker also provided an emotional spark with his animated play. Always one of the WAC's best on-court talkers, Blocker had a verbal tussle going with the Aztecs' Caldin Rogers for much of the game. They even once briefly squared off, playing a game of hot potato with the ball before the referees stepped in and stopped it.
But it wasn't just the players that gave the Aztecs trouble. The Miner fans were loud with their insults and several times got the attention of the Aztec players.
"That bothered some of our guys," Brandenburg said. "We have to control that."
Those troubles aside, the Aztecs still stayed tough. After falling behind by 11 points (28-17) with 5:50 left in the first half, the Aztecs outscored the Miners, 16-7, to close to within, 35-33, at the half. They got as close as 41-40 with 16:53 but could never take the lead.
"We were so tired out there," Hawkins said. "We came so close, but we just couldn't make that big basket when we needed it. I think the lack of sleep just wore us down."