San Diego State passed its first major test in proving its first-ever ranking is well deserved. The Aztecs now hope to maintain that success through a difficult three-day stretch.
Coming off an impressive road victory, 25th-ranked San Diego State continues the CBE Classic in Oxford, Ohio, on Saturday against Wisconsin-Green Bay - its first of three games in three days.
If Billy White and Kawhi Leonard continue their hot starts, the Aztecs (2-0) may not have much to worry about.
White, a senior, scored a career-high 30 points while Leonard added 18 points and 12 rebounds for his second straight double-double during Tuesday’s 79-76 victory at No. 11 Gonzaga, helping coach Steve Fisher earn his 200th victory in 12 seasons with San Diego State.
“We knew we had to come away with a win and let everybody in the world know that we can play with the best of them,” White said.
The victory may have silenced some critics of the Aztecs, who hail from the Mountain West Conference. Coming off five consecutive 20-win seasons, they entered 2010-11 with their first AP ranking in school history.
“This one I know got national attention,” Fisher said. “Many people were wondering what we were like.
“We have a good basketball team,” the coach added. “We have a long, athletic, smart, tough team that most importantly plays very hard and they share the basketball.”
The win against Gonzaga may also help in March, when San Diego State hopes to claim its first-ever NCAA tournament win after losing in the first round in its previous six trips. The Aztecs lost 62-59 to sixth-seeded Tennessee on March 18.
Rolling through its next stretch of games, which includes matchups with IUPUI on Sunday and Miami of Ohio on Monday, would be another step in the right direction.
The Aztecs have won 12 straight against unranked opponents, but are in the midst of playing their first five games away from home. San Diego State finished a modest 11-8 last season in road and neutral-site contests while going 14-1 at home.
Green Bay (1-1) is aiming to beat its third consecutive ranked opponent after knocking off then-No. 11 Butler on Feb. 2, 2009, and then-No. 20 Wisconsin on Dec. 9. Green Bay had lost its previous 15 games against Top-25 foes.
The Phoenix, however, lost 89-69 at Marquette on Wednesday. Senior Bryquis Perine scored a team-high 21 points, but Green Bay shot 35.9 percent from the field and 15 of 26 from the free-throw line and trailed by 20 at the half.
“There’s a lot of things we’ll see on film that we can correct where Marquette exposed us,” first-year coach Brian Wardle said. “Playing nose-to-nose with them in the second half was a good thing, but there’s a lot of things we need to correct defensively.”
This will be the first-ever meeting between the schools.