Although the Aztecs and Redbirds have faced each other before in 2015, some fans were rooting for another match-up at Illinois before the Steve Fisher era at San Diego State came to a close. But it never happened.
The last time SDSU met Illinois State, the Aztecs came away with a 71-60 victory at home. The Aztecs shot 47.9 percent from the floor and limited the Redbirds to 30.8 percent shooting. Jeremy Hemsley was a freshman then and scored a game-high 20 points with six rebounds and a team-high five assists in his debut. Hemsley is entering the 2018-19 season as a senior.
The MW-MVC Challenge was started in 2009 and ended in the 2012-13 season but renewed in time for the 2015-16 season. SDSU is 5-2 all-time in the Challenge, beating Drake in the inaugural year.
Last season, Illinois State finished with an 18-15 overall record and 10-8 in the Missouri Valley. The Redbirds were able to advance to the conference tournament title game before falling to Loyola Chicago. The program’s top six scorers are expected to return next season, including three that averaged more than 15 points per game.
For their part, the Aztecs made their seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years last season under first-year coach Brian Dutcher. San Diego State has earned a postseason berth 12 times in the last 13 season. The Aztecs finished the season with a 22-11 record and the Mountain West Tournament title for a record 11th time.
SDSU is expected to return starters Jalen McDaniels, Matt Mitchell and Devin Watson as well as Hemsley, Jordan Schakel and Nolan Narain for the 2018-19 season.