San Diego State’s Viejas Arena has been tough on visiting teams in recent seasons. With a buzz building around the program’s strong start, playing in that venue could prove even more difficult.
The No. 17 Aztecs will try to add to that excitement by matching their best start in school history in Saturday night’s Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge against Wichita State.
San Diego State knocked off Saint Mary’s 69-55 on Wednesday night in front of its ninth capacity crowd. It also marked the earliest sellout in the history of Viejas Arena, where the Aztecs have won 30 of 32.
San Diego State (7-0) is expecting to have another large crowd against the Shockers and will look to extend its streak of 16 non-conference victories at home.
“I feel that we play better at home because of our fans,” senior forward Malcolm Thomas said. “They are just so hyped and energetic and that helps us on both ends.”
San Diego State will try to use that energy to improve to 8-0 for only the third time in its 90 seasons. The Aztecs won their first eight games in 1984-85 and 2006-07.
Getting off to another strong start might help them accomplish that feat. San Diego State led 14-4 after 5 minutes Wednesday and was never seriously threatened despite getting a season-low six points from leading scorer Kawhi Leonard, who averages 16.3.
Like that matchup, the Aztecs will face another team that’s received votes in the latest poll.
Wichita State (5-1) has earned each of its wins by double digits and fell by just four points to the nation’s current No. 7 team, Connecticut, at the Maui Invitational on Nov. 22.
The Shockers enter this matchup having won four straight following a 91-51 victory over Chicago State on Wednesday night.
They’ve relied on their defense, giving up an average of 61.5 points on 40.2 percent shooting. San Diego State, meanwhile, is allowing 62.4 points per game on 40.3 percent shooting.
The Aztecs also have balanced scoring with six players contributing at least 8.9 points per game. They’re among the nation’s leaders in shooting at 52.3 percent.
The Shockers have gotten at least 5.0 points per contest from nine players and three have averaged in double figures, led by junior guard David Kyles’ 14.8 per game.
“It should be a great basketball game,” said Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, whose team was picked to win the Missouri Valley. “(San Diego State) is very, very talented.”
The Shockers have won five of their last nine matchups with ranked teams, going 2-1 last season.
In the schools’ first meeting in 34 years, San Diego State will try to beat Wichita State for the first time in six attempts.