San Diego St.-Colorado St. Preview
San Diego State's recent schedule hasn't featured many household names, but the Aztecs know things are going to get much more difficult.
The 21st-ranked Aztecs visit Colorado State on Wednesday night to open Mountain West Conference play before a showdown at No. 16 Kansas on Sunday.
San Diego State (10-1) became the first team since Oregon State in 2000 to hold three straight opponents to fewer than 40 points, blowing out tiny St. Katherine College 118-35 on Friday. It was the school's ninth straight victory since falling to then-No. 6 Arizona on Nov. 14.
The Aztecs' win followed similar routs of Southern Utah (76-39) and McNeese State (65-36), but coach Steve Fisher warned his team not to get too confident after beating overmatched opponents. Colorado State (9-4) should provide a much stiffer challenge, as the Rams won an NCAA tournament game last season.
Still, Fisher has been pleased with his team's play lately, and 34 of the last 35 teams to visit Allen Fieldhouse have left disappointed.
''It'll get a lot harder the next 19 games before Mountain West Conference tournament play,'' Fisher said. ''And that's what we told our team. I also told them that the last three games that we've held three teams under 40 points, we've done it in a fashion that wins no matter who you play. It wasn't wild, crazy stuff, one on one. It was team basketball on both ends of the floor, and that's what pleased me the most.''
Winston Shepard scored a career-best 21 points against St. Katherine, while Dwayne Polee, who sat out the previous two games with an illness, added 19 points and 12 rebounds off the bench.
The 83-point margin of victory was SDSU's largest since joining Division I in 1970-71.
''This was the last gimme game on the schedule, so we just wanted to come out and have some fun and at the same time respect the game," Shepard said. "(We wanted to) play hard and try to get better on the things we need to get better at as a team going into conference."
The Aztecs have lost in each of their last two visits to Fort Collins, including a 66-60 defeat in the most recent overall meeting Feb. 13.
The current Rams team is much different from last season's squad, though, as it has a completely new starting lineup. Navy transfer J.J. Avila is Colorado State's leading scorer at 19.5 points per game, and he had a career-high 33 with eight rebounds in an 86-71 victory over Lamar on Saturday.
Avila hit his first 13 shots to set a Mountain West record for consecutive field goals to start a game.
Daniel Bejarano, a 6-foot-4 junior guard, had 19 points and 18 rebounds to follow a 10-point, 15-rebound effort in a win over Illinois-Chicago on Dec. 23. Bejarano is averaging 9.6 boards, best in the nation among guards.
"It was very impressive what (Avila and Bejarano) both were able to do," coach Larry Eustachy told the school's official website. "We need those guys to score. Eighteen rebounds just jumps out at me. Anytime anyone does that at that size, I was pleased."
San Diego State had won 12 of the previous 13 meetings with the Rams prior to the most recent matchup.