Gonzaga coach Mark Few couldn’t be happier with how senior Robert Sacre has been able to dominate in the post so far.
The 7-foot center, though, could face a stiff test against Western Michigan big man Matt Stainbrook, who has plenty of motivation following one of the worst performances of his career.
The 19th-ranked Bulldogs look to open 4-0 for the first time in three seasons Saturday at the Spokane Arena, where they’ll face a Broncos team off to its worst start in 11 years.
A likely first-round pick in next year’s NBA draft, Sacre is averaging career highs of 17.7 points and 10.0 rebounds after posting his third double-double of the season in last Saturday’s 73-54 victory over Hawaii in the B.C. Classic in Vancouver.
“He’s unbelievably sound with the way he posts,” Few said of Sacre, who finished with 16 points with 10 boards. “He posts the right way. He shows his numbers and he’s just a big, strong guy to get around. He wears people out.”
The 290-pound Stainbrook has been known to do the same. However, the sophomore was held scoreless with one rebound in 16 foul-plagued minutes of Wednesday’s 80-37 loss at Purdue.
Stainbrook averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 boards in the opening four games.
Although Western Michigan (0-5) is coming off an awful 8-for-45 shooting performance and off to its worst start since opening 0-7 in 2000-01, Few doesn’t expect the Bulldogs to just roll over the Broncos when these teams meet for the first time.
“These guys won (the Mid-American Conference West) last year, and are picked to win it against this year, so we expect a physical team, a really well-coached team (by Steve Hawkins) … and I’m sure it will be a very tough-minded team,” Few said Monday.
Few wasn’t pleased with the hard rims at Rogers Arena last Saturday, and he can’t be pleased with the team’s 39.5 percent shooting through three games. Finding the bottom of the net, however, hasn’t been a problem for freshman Kevin Pangos, the reigning West Coast Conference player of the week.
The 18-year-old guard is scoring a team-best 18.7 points per game and hitting 63.2 percent (12 for 19) from 3-point range.
Pangos, who tied a team record with nine 3s and scored 33 in a 89-81 win over Washington on Nov. 14 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, will now get his first look at the 12,000-seat Spokane Arena. Gonzaga expects a packed house as it plays this contest less than two miles from the MAC, which can seat just 6,000.
“That’s why we play the game in the Arena,” Few said. “Myself, our staff, our players run into so many people that talk about not being able to get into the McCarthey Center to see us. So this is what this game’s all about.”