Spokane, WA – The Western Michigan Broncos will try once ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs will be anything but easy.
Western Michigan, which calls the Mid-American Conference home, has played five games already, and despite being competitive in the majority of them, has absolutely nothing to show for its efforts. Losses to South Dakota State, Iona and Colorado came by an average of only 5.7 ppg, but there have been some really bad setbacks in there as well, as the Broncos dropped a 69-55 decision to Temple, and then were absolutely steamrolled in their last outing, an 80-37 loss at Purdue on Wednesday night.
At the other end of the spectrum, Gonzaga has yet to taste defeat here in the early stages of the 2011-12 season, topping the likes of Eastern Washington (77-69), Washington State (89-81) and Hawaii (73-54). The Bulldogs have yet to play a true road game, although their recent win over Hawaii took place on a neutral court, in Canada last Saturday. The favorite to once again win the West Coast Conference, GU will surely be challenged in its next few games, as it hosts Notre Dame and Michigan State, sandwiched around a road tilt at Illinois. The Zags will also play Arizona and Butler prior to beginning league play against the University of Portland on December 28.
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between Western Michigan and Gonzaga on the hardwood.
Western Michigan hasn't performed particularly well at either end of the court this year, shooting 39.9 percent overall, including 27.4 percent from three- point range, while allowing the opposition to connect on 45.3 percent of its total shots. As a result, the Broncos average 66.4 ppg while permitting 81.2 ppg. Matt Stainbrook (15.6 ppg) and Demetrius Ward (13.6 ppg) are the only two players averaging double figures in the scoring column, although Mike Douglas (9.4 ppg), Flenard Whitfield (9.0 ppg) and Nate Hutcheson (8.8 ppg) are close to joining them. Whitfield is grabbing a team-best 8.0 rpg, helping WMU stake a narrow +1.6 rebounding advantage through the first five games. The Broncos were absolutely horrendous in the loss at Purdue, hitting just eight of their 45 field goal attempts (.178), including only two in the second half. Douglas was the high man for Western Michigan with a mere eight points, and the team committed 20 turnovers which the Boilermakers turned into 29 points.
Gonzaga is undefeated despite being outshot on average by the opposition. The Bulldogs are hitting their field goal attempts 39.5 percent of the time, which includes a 38.3 percent showing from beyond the arc, while giving up typical shooting efforts of 41.1 percent overall and 46.0 percent from long range. One of the areas the team has really excelled in is getting to the foul line, doing so 116 times compared to just 40 for its opponents. The Zags have four guys averaging double digits in the scoring column, with freshman Kevin Pangos leading the way with 18.7 ppg on the strength of his 12-of-19 effort from three-point land. He also serves as the team's primary playmaker with 2.5 apg. Robert Sacre is averaging a double-double with his 17.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, while Elias Harris is close to joining him as he generates 12.7 points and 9.0 caroms per contest. Gary Bell, Jr. chips in 10.7 ppg. Sacre made his return home a successful one against Hawaii last weekend, as the former British Columbia High School star scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Bulldogs put three others in double figures in scoring while forcing 23 turnovers and holding the Rainbow Warriors to 37.7 percent field goal efficiency.