Wildcats focused on No. 14 Gonzaga

By Joel Jellison

Fresh off the first true road win of the season, the Kansas State men’s basketball team is focusing on facing its second top 25-ranked team in the past month.

The Wildcats will travel to Seattle to face No. 14-ranked Gonzaga this Saturday, in a neutral-site game that will be played not too far from the Bulldogs’ home in Spokane, Wash.

K-State faced its first road challenge last Saturday, beating George Washington 65-62 in Washington D.C.

K-State associate head coach Chris Lowery, filling in for a traveling Bruce Weber, said they wanted to see how the team would respond on the road.

He also compared it to the level of playing a Big 12 school.

“We really tried to be positive with them when they (Colonials) made their first run,” he said. “We made it really clear that this was a game where we knew it would be their biggest crowd of the season that they’d had thus far. They had T-shirts on each chair, they had the students in there early and they were barbecuing outside.

“We knew what we were going to be walking into, and we wanted to have our guys weather that first five-minute storm of their excitement of playing a Big 12 school.”

The Wildcats are now tasked with facing a previously undefeated Gonzaga team that is coming off its first loss of the season, ironically for Weber, to Illinois.

K-State is 24-16 in true road games since the 2008-09 season, and has won eight of their last nine true road games in non-conference play.

One benefit for the Wildcats is that the game won’t be played on Gonzaga’s home court, oft considered to be one of the toughest environments to play in. Saturday’s game will instead be played in Key Arena, the former home of the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“At least we’re not in ‘The Kennel’ in their home” Lowery said. “It’s still a road game, but it’s not in the confines of home where they are right on top of you like they are at their home court.”

It’s just the first of two neutral-site games in the month of December for the Wildcats, as they will “host” Florida, another top 25-ranked squad, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City on Dec. 22.

The Bulldogs feature one of the top shooting percentages in the nation at .527 and their lineup boasts the services of a pair of 7-footers.

Lowery said they are a team capable of doing a lot of different things.

“It starts with the interior, they have those four big guys and they all play off double-teams, and their guards are very good shooters from the perimeter so that leads to a recipe for success as far as field goal percentage,” he said. “They pass great out of double-teams. They feast on you if you play behind them or give them angles in the post. They do a really good job of playing on the inside first and then out.”

McGruder named Big 12 POTW

K-State senior Rodney McGruder was named Big 12 Player of the Week after scoring 15 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in the Wildcats’ 65-62 win at George Washington.

In his homecoming to Washington D.C., McGruder recorded his fifth career double-double, finishing 6-of-18 from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

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