Gonzaga coaches and players hear it from Spokanites all the time.
“We run into so many people that say they can’t get into the McCarthey Athletic Center to see us,” head coach Mark Few said. “That’s what this game is about. It’s a win-win. People who don’t get to see us get to come watch and hopefully we can raise money for a great charity.”
The 19th-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) hope to make it a win-win-win when they entertain Western Michigan (0-5) today at 1 p.m. in the annual Ronald McDonald House Charities Classic at the Arena, which has double the capacity of GU’s 6,000-seat facility. Roughly 1,000 tickets remained as of midday Friday.
The Bulldogs have mixed in a couple of days off with several practices following last Saturday’s win over Hawaii in Vancouver. The Broncos, meanwhile, are piling up air miles. The defending Mid-American Conference West Division champions have visited South Dakota State, Puerto Rico for a tournament and Purdue. When they return to Kalamazoo, the Broncos will have traveled 11,332 miles to play six games.
The last road trip was the roughest as no Broncos reached double figures and the team made just 18 percent of its field-goal attempts in an 80-37 loss to Purdue on Wednesday. Center Matt Stainbrook’s 19.5-point scoring average dipped nearly four points after he went scoreless in 16 minutes versus Boilermakers.
Despite the winless start, Western Michigan presents several challenges. The left-handed Stainbrook, listed at 6-foot-9 and 290 pounds, poured in 32 points against South Dakota State. He was shooting better than 70 percent prior to going 0 for 4 against Purdue.
Western Michigan returns all five starters from last season. The Broncos have won five West titles under ninth-year coach Steve Hawkins and they’re favored to make it sixth this season.
“That’s a really tough league,” Few said of the Mid-American. “There have just been some great, hard-nosed programs out of there over the years. We played a really good Akron team a couple years back and they gave us all we could handle at the NCAA tournament.”