Arizona hits the road to face SDSU

Arizona will take on San Diego State on Thursday. Read on for a complete preview, including what Sean Miller and Steve Fisher think about the contest.

Last season's game between Arizona and San Diego State in Honolulu was as close as it can get with a Nick Johnson block on a Chase Tapley layup the deciding factor in the 68-67 win for the Wildcats.

Tapley is gone now, as are numerous others on both teams, but the Wildcats and Aztecs will once again face each other with plenty of talent Thursday night at San Diego State.

"I think we have a really tough test here on Thursday at San Diego State," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "They have a tremendous program and to me they have really solidified themselves as a national program and to me one of the powerhouses on the west coast.

"Just looking at their team, although they have lost some real key parts as we did from a year ago, they now have it to a point where I think they have role players from the previous year being more assertive a year later."

The efficiency of both teams starts at the point, with senior Xavier Thames manning it for the Aztecs. He is not considered to be a very good shooter, but the 6-foot-3 guard has impressed Miller.

"Xavier Thames is another guy that has been around and played against us a number of times," he said. "He's an older, experienced player. He is an all-conference type of point guard and you just don't find that type of experience and quality at that position."

T.J. McConnell will get the task of slowing Thames down and will also be playing in an environment that he may not be quite used to. He is currently only averaging four points per game, but his seven assists per game is something Arizona has not seen in a while.

The most difficult matchup for Arizona is going to be Tulane transfer Josh Davis, who averaged a double-double last season. Brandon Ashley will likely have to play a strong defensive game in order to contain Davis, who Miller believes will play at the next level.

"They've added, in my mind, one of the great players in college basketball in Josh Davis," Miller said. "I believe he led the nation in free-throw attempts last year, if he did not lead the nation, certainly one of the leaders. Just watching him here early on, he's a handful. To me, he's a NBA player."

Davis is likely going to be one of the best players Arizona sees all season and it is due in large part to his versatility.

"He runs and he looks physically a lot like Kawhi Leonard," Miller said. "You can just kind of see the similarities. Great offensive rebounder, really drives the ball from the perimeter, can score around the basket, seems to be able to drive right and left, but yet he is left-handed. I think he is one of the best players that we will play against all season long."

As much as Arizona is going to have to watch out for Davis, SDSU is going to have a similar task in containing freshman forward Aaron Gordon.

"He's very talented," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher said. "He's got a high motor and high basketball IQ. He's got all the ingredients that allow you to be in elite company when they talk about the best players in the country. He plays so hard and he's good. He's quick off his feet, and can play multiple positions. He's hungry to get better. Everything that good players have, he's got."

It may only be the third game of the season for Arizona and second for SDSU, but both are treating it like a statement game.

"Our kids are all saying, `We're better than they are, and we're going to come out and win the game,' Fisher said. "You have to have that mindset. I think both teams try to do some of the same things like guard hard, get early offense, rebound like crazy and make it hard for the other team to score. And that's what we will attempt to do.

"We want to make the NCAA tournament. If you win a game like this, we will have a resume builder for the tournament. It's fun to play a really good team that everybody knows is a really good team."

Miller also feels that there is something to say for the fact that Arizona is choosing to go into such a hostile environment at this point of the season.

"This is our first road game, there are not a lot of teams like us that I believe play on the road in November on a true road game," he said. "Everybody makes a big deal out of huge neutral site venues and I understand that, but that doesn't count. What counts is when you play a team in their own arena.

"That's when you really understand you are going up against a good team under conditions that favor them. You learn a lot about your own team, but those are games that aren't easy to win and we know that."

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