Good evening again from Salt Lake City.
No. 1 Gonzaga
Top scorer: Kelly Olynyk, 17.6
Top rebounder: Elias Harris, 7.5
Keys to victory: The Zags know they’re dealing with a tough-minded opponent that relies on defense and rebounding. They have to match Wichita State’s intensity for the full 40 minutes because the Shockers have only two double-digit losses this season.
Wichita State is plus 8.3 per game rebounding and Gonzaga is plus 7.4 so something has to give on the glass. “We didn’t have our best effort in the last game,” GU’s Sam Dower said. “That’s one place we’ve got to improve in order to beat this team.”
The Bulldogs’ offense was out of sync for large portions of Thursday’s game before Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. hit big shots down the stretch. A repeat performance could to be tough to overcome against the Shockers.
No. 9 Wichita State
Top scorer: Cleanthony Early, 13.8
Top rebounder: Carl Hall, 7.1
Keys to victory: The Shockers don’t want to get into a scoring fest. They rely on defense, rebounding, toughness and depth, all of which came into play in their 73-55 rout against Pittsburgh.
Guard Tekele Cotton locked down Pitt’s Tray Woodall, who was 1 of 12 from the field, scored two points and committed five turnovers. Cotton will probably defend Kevin Pangos. With Carl Hall, Cleanthony Early, 7-foot Ehimen Orukpe, Jake White and Chadrack Lufile, the Shockers believe they have the size and numbers to keep fresh bodies defensively on Gonzaga’s strong inside game.
To pull off the upset, Wichita State needs success at the offensive end, where it typically makes just 44 percent of its shots and scores 69.5 points. Early, Hall and Malcolm Armstead are the most likely candidates for a breakout scoring game.