Coach Mark Few hopes a pair of easy victories have prepared Gonzaga enough for its first true challenge of the season.
San Diego State, meanwhile, has a chance to prove it deserves to be ranked for the first time in school history.
The No. 11 Bulldogs look to start 3-0 for the sixth time in seven seasons when they host the 25th-ranked Aztecs on Tuesday night as part of the CBE Classic.
Gonzaga has shot 56.9 percent and averaged 101.5 points in victories over Southern University and IUPUI, but Few knows things won’t come as easy when his squad meets San Diego State for the first time since December 1959.
“It’s a huge test,” Few said. “Especially this early in the season.”
The Aztecs opened the season in the AP Top 25 after returning their entire starting lineup from last season’s 25-9 team that won the Mountain West Conference tournament and was beaten 62-59 by Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“I told the team that on Oct. 28 we’re ranked. We’re going to look again Dec. 4 and see if we can find ourselves,” said Steve Fisher, who is in his 12th season with the Aztecs and previously won the 1989 NCAA tournament at Michigan.
Remaining in the poll won’t be easy with Gonzaga up next.
“We have to go into every game like it’s the championship,” Aztecs guard D.J. Gay said.
Gay and the Aztecs will try to contain Gonzaga senior Steven Gray, who has averaged 21.0 points on 14-of-21 shooting in two games. He had 17 points, eight assists and four steals in 34 minutes of an 86-56 win over IUPUI on Sunday.
“He does everything good,” Few said. “He’s our best defender, he’s our best playmaker, he’s our best shooter. He’s just a complete guard.”
Forward Kelly Olynyk tied a career high with 13 points for the Bulldogs. After coming off the bench Sunday, the 6-foot-11 Olynyk could return to the starting lineup against San Diego State’s talented frontcourt of Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White.
Leonard, who averaged a team-leading 12.7 points and 9.9 rebounds last season, had 21 and 12 boards in an 81-65 victory over Long Beach State on Saturday. Thomas added 10 rebounds.
Gay scored 20 points as the Aztecs broke open a game tied at halftime by outscoring the 49ers 39-23 in the second half.
San Diego State likely can’t afford a slow start against a Gonzaga squad that held its first two opponents to 38.2 percent shooting.
“I’m very proud of our guys right now,” Gonzaga forward Robert Sacre said. “It shows that we have great defense and that’s the key about winning championships.”
Though San Diego State beat three ranked MWC opponents last season, the Aztecs have dropped 10 in a row against non-conference Top 25 teams since beating No. 21 Fresno State 93-78 on Dec. 8, 2001.
Gonzaga is one of four regional hosts for the CBE Classic, along with No. 1 Duke, No. 3 Kansas State and Marquette. Those four teams will play each other in the championship rounds in Kansas City, Mo., on Nov. 22-23. The other eight teams will play in Oxford, Ohio, and Harrisonburg, Va.