Highly ranked teams don't often travel to San Diego State's Viejas Arena, and the Aztecs will try to make the most of this rare opportunity Thursday night when they host an Arizona team coming off a strong effort in its last game.
San Diego State (1-0) will play a top 10 team at home for the first time since Jimmer Fredette and No. 7 BYU won 80-67 on Feb. 26, 2011. Sixth-ranked Arizona, however, is the first non-conference team with such a lofty ranking to visit the Aztecs since it posted an 89-81 victory in San Diego on Dec. 7, 2002, as the No. 1 team in the country.
Arizona (2-0) is playing its first road game of the season after rolling past Long Beach State 91-57 on Monday night. Freshman Alan Gordon had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games for the Wildcats, who will also play in the NIT Season Tip Off in New York and at Final Four participant Michigan as part of their non-conference schedule.
"We've shared the ball really since we came together in late August, early September. We have a really unselfish group," Wildcats coach Sean Miller said. "We are good in the open court, and we have to keep it that way. The more opportunities we give ourselves, that's when we are at our best offensively."
Gordon has shown no hesitation in making the transition to high-major college hoops, shooting a combined 11 of 19 while staying out of foul trouble. He is the focal point of a team that features a balanced attack with five players averaging at least 10 points thus far.
"He's a great player," Aztecs forward Matt Shrigley said of Gordon. "He has a high motor and does a lot of good things for his team. He's a player you've got to watch out for and always know where he is on the court."
Duquesne transfer and point guard T.J. McConnell has taken to Miller's offense, dishing out eight assists Monday as Arizona has averaged 82.0 points on 58 percent shooting in the two victories.
While the Wildcats did emerge with a 68-67 win over the Aztecs in the final of last season's Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, Miller remembers his last trip to Viejas Arena, a 63-46 loss on Dec. 12, 2009, he said "was probably a big of a whooping as I had ever taken since I was in about the second grade. They've had some players leave, but there is no doubt that it will be one of our most difficult games that we play this season."
For San Diego State - trying to reach a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament - to pull off the upset, it will need to defend the 3-point line. Arizona is hitting 43 percent from distance this season, and Gabe York is 6 for 11. San Diego State, which has won 40 of its last 41 non-conference home games, limited opponents to just 32 percent behind the arc last season, and held UC Riverside to a 1-for-9 mark in their season-opening 77-41 win on Nov. 8 as Xavier Thames had 15 points and four steals.
"We want to make the NCAA tournament. If you win a game like this, we will have a resume builder for the tournament," Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. "I'm glad we have them at home because our crowd will be an immense help to us."
Arizona leads the all-time series 21-7, and last season's victory snapped a two-game skid to the Aztecs.