WICHITA, Kan. – Gonzaga senior guard David Stockton is a concise, cut-to-the-chase interview subject.
When asked about the challenge Kansas State presents in the Wichita Wildcat Classic today, Stockton advised his teammates to bring their hard hats.
“They’re a very tough team, they’re always going to rebound tough and play hard,” Stockton said. “And we’ll be in Kansas with their fans, so we have to be ready to go.”
How have the 21st-ranked Bulldogs fared in the physicality department?
“I think we have (improved), but it’s still a learning process,” Stockton said. “Sometimes I feel like we’re tougher some days than we are other days.”
The Wildcats (7-3), who have won five in a row, rely on hard-nosed defense and a serviceable offense. They’re plus-64 in rebounding in a five-game winning streak. They average 14.2 offensive boards per game, despite not starting a player taller than 6 foot 7.
Kansas State, 8-12 in previous games in Wichita, ranks ninth nationally in scoring defense (59.4) and fourth in 3-point percentage defense (24.9).
Gonzaga thumped the Wildcats 68-52 last year in the Battle in Seattle. Kansas State went on to earn a share the Big 12 regular-season title, the program’s first since 1977.
“Last year they really tried to bang it inside with their bigs,” Kansas State senior guard Will Spradling said. “This year they are a lot more guard-oriented.”
This one has the feel of the irresistible force (Gonzaga’s offense) versus the immovable object (Kansas State’s defense). The Zags are in the top five nationally in field-goal percentage and 3-pointers made.
“Kansas State is pretty straightforward on defense,” GU coach Mark Few said. “They’re going to play man and get after you.”
Gonzaga will be the Wildcats’ first ranked opponent. Kansas State was tied for fifth with Oklahoma in the Big 12 preseason poll.
“It is another chance for us to go undefeated in December, and a tournament-résumé win,” Wildcats senior guard Shane Southwell said.