(21) Gonzaga (10-1) vs. Kansas State (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 21, 3:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: INTRUST Bank Arena (15,004) -- Wichita, Kansas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: GU 6-0, KSU 6-1. Away Record: GU 1-0, KSU 0-0. Neutral Record: GU 3-1, KSU 1-2. Conference Record: GU 0-0, KSU 0-0. Series Record: Kansas State leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The 21st-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs take aim at their seventh straight win, as they tangle with the Kansas State Wildcats in the Wichita Wildcat Classic as INTRUST Bank Arena on Saturday afternoon.
Gonzaga has once again gotten off to a sensational start, the team winning 10 of its first 11 games. The Bulldogs have been idle since taking down South Alabama in Seattle last Saturday, 68-59, and this contest represents its final test before kicking off West Coast Conference play at home against Santa Clara next Saturday. That game will also open a four-game homestand for the Zags, who are 6-0 in Spokane this season.
After opening the season at 3-3, Kansas State has turned a corner in claiming four straight wins, the most recent of which being a 72-43 trouncing of Troy at home last Sunday. The Wildcats have yet to play a true road game, and they are playing in Wichita for the 21st time, with the majority of those bouts coming against intrastate rival Wichita State. K-State will play two more non- league game following this contest, and will lift the lid on its Big 12 Conference slate at home against Oklahoma State on Jan. 4.
Kansas State has won two of the previous three meetings in the series with Gonzaga, but it was the Bulldogs who picked up their only win in last year's tussle in Seattle, 68-52.
Gonzaga ranks as one of the top offensive teams in the country, as its 87.5 ppg has it at No. 11, and the club boasts three double-digit scorers in Kevin Pangos (18.7 ppg, 4.3 apg), Sam Dower (14.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Gary Bell, Jr. (14.5 ppg, 2.0 apg). The team as a whole is converting a robust 52.6 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a 44.4 percent showing from 3-point range. Factor in favorable margins in rebounding (+4.8) and turnovers (+1.5), as well as a defensive effort that yields typical shooting efforts of only .405 overall and .319 from beyond the arc, and it's easy to see why the Bulldogs are enjoying another highly successful start to a campaign.
Bell, Jr. was high man for GU in its recent win over South Alabama, scoring 20 points while grabbing six rebounds, and Dower logged a double-double consisting of 12 points and 11 boards. Pangos had trouble finding his groove, going just 3-of-12 from the field for 10 points, and the Zags made good on only 40.6 percent of their total shots, missing 12 of their 14 long-range launches along the way. Fortunately, the Jaguars were successful on only 32.2 percent of their field goal tries, while committing 15 turnovers. Gonzaga dominated on the inside, outscoring USA in the paint, 46-18.
Kansas State's strength lies in its ability to limit the opposition from getting into an offensive rhythm, as foes are scoring just 59.4 ppg in hitting a mere 40.1 percent of their field goal attempts, and only 24.9 percent of their 3-point tries. The Wildcats don't do much at the other end however, netting 66.0 ppg behind typical shooting outputs of .410 overall and .278 from beyond the arc. Marcus Foster currently sits atop the team's scoring list with 14.4 ppg, but he is nearly shooting as well from long range (.349) as he is from the floor overall (.380). Thomas Gipson (11.8 ppg) is the only other double-digit scorer on the roster right now, but that could change shortly as Shane Southwell is generating 9.8 ppg while combining with Gipson to pull down 11.4 rpg. He also has a club-best 32 assists.
Balance was the key in the Wildcats' recent rout of Troy, as Foster and Will Spradling each tallied 14 points, and 11 guys in all scored. KSU shot 43.1 percent from the floor, nailing eight treys, while the Trojans connected on a mere 36.2 percent of their total shots, which included a dismal 3-of-19 effort from 3-point land. Troy scored only 15 points in the first half, and was badly outrebounded in the game (44-27), while committing 16 turnovers.
As well as K-State has performed of late, particularly at the defensive end, the Bulldogs come in sporting an offense that it is extremely difficult to stop. This one should be relatively close for a while, but Gonzaga didn't travel all this way to lose a game it should win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Gonzaga 75, Kansas State 66
12/21 10:31:34 ET