San Diego State coach Steve Fisher wasn't surprised that his team was locked in a close game in its Mountain West opener. A visit by surging Colorado State could provide the Aztecs with another test as they open their conference home schedule.
The No. 16 Aztecs go for their 10th consecutive home win in this series Saturday night, when an eighth straight victory by the Rams would give them their best-ever start.
Beginning their run for a third consecutive regular-season league title, the Aztecs (13-2, 1-0) hung on for a 65-62 victory over Fresno State on Wednesday behind Jamaal Franklin's 20 points and career-best 18 rebounds.
"I told our team that when you move from non-conference to conference play, the level of energy, preparation and scouting is exponentially raised,'' Fisher said. "Every game has the potential to be like this.''
Saturday is no different, even though San Diego State has won nine straight at Viejas Arena and hasn't lost at home to Colorado State (13-2, 0-0) since February 2003. The Aztecs won the most recent home game in the series 74-66 on Feb. 25.
Colorado State, looking for its fourth straight conference play-opening victory, kept rolling by beating St. Bonaventure 85-64 last Saturday. The Rams are on the verge of the best 16-game start in program history.
"It has been a great non-conference," Colorado State first-year coach Larry Eustachy told the school's official website. "We have protected our home court (matching a program record with 22 straight wins) which you have to do. Now is the time to tee it up with the big fellas and take it a game at a time."
Franklin is third in the league with 17.4 points per game and leads the conference with 10.5 rebounds a contest. However, he will need help on the glass from Deshawn Stephens, JJ O'Brien and others as the Rams are among the national leaders with 42.5 rebounds per game and a rebounding margin of 13.9.
Colorado State's Pierce Hornung, averaging 10.2 boards, grabbed 13 against the Bonnies.
The Rams dropped two of three to San Diego State last season, falling 79-69 in the conference tournament semifinals.
The Aztecs will get their first look at center Colton Iverson. The Minnesota transfer is averaging a team-best 14.7 points along with 8.9 boards.
Senior guards Wes Eikmeier and Dorian Green, who combined for 40 points in Colorado State's last game, may not have to face San Diego State point guard Xavier Thames due to a lower back strain. If Thames misses a second straight game, freshman forward Winston Shepard could get another start with Franklin shifting to the backcourt with Chase Tapley.
Franklin averaged 24.7 points and 10.7 rebounds against Colorado State in 2011-12. In the first meeting Jan. 28, his 24 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks weren't enough as visiting San Diego State suffered its most lopsided loss of the season, 77-60.
That snapped the Aztecs' 11-game winning streak and nine-game run in the series.