OSU To Face Nemisis Gonzaga In NCAA Tourney

Marcus Smart

Oklahoma State will face an opponent the Cowboys are familiar with in a second-round game of the NCAA Tournament on Friday in San Diego. The OSU Cowboys, seeded ninth by the NCAA selection committee, will face No. 8 seed Gonzaga in the West Region matchup. The two teams have played three times during the regular season the last six years, and the Cowboys are 0-5 all-time against the Zags.

The game will be played in Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl in San Diego, and is scheduled to begin at approximately 3:40 p.m. (Central time). It will be broadcast on TNT.

Gonzaga, 28-6, will be making its 16th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the West Coast Conference postseason tournament with a 75-64 victory over BYU this past week.

"Obviously, we have a lot of respect for Gonzaga," OSU head coach Travis Ford said. "Mark Few does a great job. We're a little familiar with them. Both teams are very similar to what they had last year, in regards to personnel. Neither team lost a whole lot, so we're pretty familiar with each other."

According to the OSU Basketball Media Guide, OSU is winless against only four teams in its storied history (with a minimum of three games). The Cowboys are 0-5 against Gonzaga, 0-4 versus Butler, 0-4 against Virginia Tech, and 0-3 versus Arizona.

The Zags traveled to Stillwater to face the Cowboys last season, winning a 69-68 thriller in front of a sold-out Gallagher-Iba Arena crowd on Dec. 31, 2012. Then freshman Marcus Smart missed two free throws with 8.7 seconds remaining as the 10th-ranked Zags knocked off the 22nd-ranked Cowboys.

Gonzaga also defeated OSU during the 2010-11 season. The Zags won 73-52 on Dec. 31, 2010 in Spokane, Wash., to give head coach Mark Few the 300th win of his coaching career.

On Nov. 27, 2008, the Zags handed Travis Ford his first loss as head coach of the Cowboys in a 83-71 victory at the Old Spice Classic in Kissimmee, Fla.

But this year's version of the Cowboys does not resemble any of those previous teams that lost to Gonzaga.

Despite a 21-12 record, Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash lead a team that is determined to make a run in the NCAA tourney.

The Cowboys lost seven in a row to put their NCAA tournament hopes in jeopardy in February, but have rallied to win five of their last seven. The only two losses during that streak were both in overtime – to Big 12 tournament champion Iowa State (85-81 on March 8) and to Big 12 regulars season champ Kansas (77-70 last Thursday in the conference tourney).

Smart's 17.8 points per game leads the Cowboys but he also averages 5.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.8 steals. Brown is averaging 17.1 points and 5.3 rebounds, while Nash contributes 14.2 points and 5.7 rebounds.

Gonzaga's probable starting lineup against OSU will be:
G: 4 Kevin Pangos (6-2, 182, Jr.)
14.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 assists, 1.0 steals
G: 5 Gary Bell (6-2, 205, Jr.)
11.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 assists, 1.0 steals
G: 11 David Stockton (5-11, 165, Gr.)
7.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 4.2 assists, 1.6 steals
C: 24 Przemek Karnowski (7-1, 296, So.)
10.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 0.7 assists, 0.3 steals, 1.7 blocks
F: 35 Sam Dower Jr. (6-9, 243, Gr.)
15.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.7 blocks

"They're big. Two of their top three scorers are at the four and the five (positions)," Ford said of the Zags. "Kevin Pangos is their second-leading scorer, and he can shoot it. Not only that, but he can create his own shot. He is one of the better players in America.

"Gary Bell had a great game last year, here in Gallagher-Iba (Arena), and David Stockton is a really good point guard. We know their starting five pretty well. We'll watch film and get to know the other guys better, but their starting five all played a significant role in last year's game."

The winner of the OSU-Gonzaga game will advance to face either No. 1 seed Arizona (30-4) or 16th seed Weber State (19-11) on Sunday.

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