College basketball's last remaining undefeated team, No. 7-ranked San Diego State, returns to Viejas Arena Saturday to host Mountain West Conference counterpart Nevada.
The Aztecs (18-0, 7-0 Mountain West) on Tuesday extended their best start since going 20-0 to open the 2010-11 season with a 64-55 victory over Fresno State. One day later, Auburn dropped a tilt with Alabama that leaves San Diego State as the only unbeaten in the nation.
Extending its perfect start to 18 games did not come without some difficulty. San Diego State struggled offensively for stretches at Fresno State, but a defense that ranks among the nation's best came through.
"Our defense was the anchor and we made enough timely plays to make sure we escaped here with a victory," Aztecs coach Brian Dutcher said in his postgame press conference.
San Diego State entered Thursday ranks No. 15 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. The Aztecs rank No. 43 in opponent 2-point field-goal percentage, holding opponents to 44.1 percent shooting inside the arc; and seventh-best in the country with an opponent 3-point average of 26.6 percent.
They held Fresno State to 5-of-17 shooting from beyond the arc Tuesday, which helped the Aztecs overcome their own 3-of-18 shooting from deep. Three-point shooting has typically been a strength for San Diego State's offense, which comes into Saturday's matchup making 37.4 percent of its attempts from outside.
Malachi Flynn buoyed San Diego State's offense in the road win with 22 points. The veteran guard has been key to the Aztecs' start, particularly on that side of the ball -- and in more way than one.
"As a point guard you can't do one thing," Flynn said in Tuesday's postgame press conference. "There are no point guards that just score. That's not how it goes anymore. A lot of them can score but they also can find people and do things on defense. I just try to do a little bit of everything for this team."
Flynn leads San Diego State in scoring at 16.6 points per game and assists with 4.8.
The Aztecs welcome in a Nevada defense that, while middling in a few defensive categories such as opponent 2-point field-goal shooting, has been excellent at defending the 3-pointer.
The Wolf Pack (11-7, 4-2) have held opponents to 27.3 percent from behind the arc. They limited Wyoming to 8-of-25 shooting from deep in Tuesday's 68-67 win, a victory secured on a Jalen Harris layup with nine seconds remaining.
"They're learning some valuable lessons about (how) hard it is to win at this level," Nevada coach Steve Alford said in his postgame press conference.
Alford said Nevada's defense in the first halves against Wyoming and the preceding loss to Utah State were the best 20 minutes the Wolf Pack have played on that side of the ball all season. In both instances, however, they faltered defensively in the second half.
Offensively, Nevada plays an up-tempo style and shoots effectively from long range. Harris leads players averaging in double-figure scoring at 18.4 points per game, with Jazz Johnson adding 17.1 points per game and Lindsey Drew at 12.1 points per game.
Nevada's perimeter-oriented offense contrasts with a San Diego State lineup that features some effective interior play. Matt Mitchell has emerged as a reliable scoring and rebounding threat, and he has worked his way into the Aztecs starting lineup over recent weeks.
--Field Level Media