By Andrew Glover
STILLWATER, Okla. —
No. 22 Oklahoma State did just about everything it needed to upset the No. 10 Gonzaga Bulldogs. It shot the ball well, defended well and protected the ball. The Cowboys weren’t able to overcome their deficit in rebounding in a 69-68 loss Monday at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“They just destroyed us on the glass,” coach Travis Ford said. “That’s the bottom line. We just let one guy control the game in the second half, and in a close game like this, the team that is getting the easy baskets is probably going to win, and they were getting easy baskets.”
The one guy Ford was referring to was the Bulldogs Kelly Olynyk, who scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds (seven offensive) in the second half. Olynyk only played six minutes in the first half due to foul trouble.
“When you allow a guy to score 21 points and get seven offensive rebounds, it’s going to be difficult,” Ford said. “It’s the second time he’d done that. Against Washington State he had the exact same thing. ... He dominated the game.”
Oklahoma State shot 56 percent in the second half but was out-rebounded for the game 37-21, 16-9 on the offensive glass, leading to 18 second-chance points for the Bulldogs. Ford said his team lacked physicality.
“We only have one physical player around the rim, and that’s Phillip Jurick,” Ford said. “We have some physical guards, but nobody around the rim. Jurick got in some foul trouble, and we had to bring him out.”
Some of the Cowboys’ struggles on the glass were due to their big men getting in foul trouble. Jurick (6 feet, 11 inches), freshman Kamari Murphy (6 feet, 8 inches) and sophomore Michael Cobbins (6 feet, 8 inches) each picked up their third personal foul early in the second half. Gonzaga was in the bonus with 14:37 left in the game.
“We need Phillip Jurick out there,” Ford said. “He gives us the most physicality around the rim. It wasn’t hard to figure out what they were going to do in the second half. They just pounded the ball in there on us. Without him in there we really struggled.”
Gonzaga coach Mark Few said his team has great depth especially with its big men.
“Kelly (Olynyk) is usually the one guy that has trouble with fouls and we were able to get him through with two and we knew we had all of our horses for the second half,” Few said. “Our bigs can attack you in a number of ways. This isn’t the first time that we’ve gotten people in foul trouble. They post you hard and they can drive you.”
The Bulldogs (13-1) jumped out early with 10-0 run forcing an early timeout from Ford. Gonzaga led most of the first half until the Cowboys rallied at the end. Freshman Marcus Smart got a steal and dunk to tie the game at 29. A minute later he hit a jumper to give OSU a brief lead. Gonzaga led 32-31 at halftime.
Smart said the team has good chemistry and that helped them battle back.
“We bonded a lot. We’ve been practicing hard over the last couple of weeks,” Smart said. “This is a team that doesn’t give up no matter what the score is. That’s what we did tonight. Great teams are going to go on runs, and we knew that was coming.”
Gonzaga’s point guard Kevin Pangos provided the Bulldogs’ spark offensively with 18 points and was 3-for-5 on 3-pointers.
Junior guard Markel Brown said the team picked up its intensity on defense in the second half.
“In the first half, we came out kind of letting them do whatever they wanted to do,” Brown said. “We came back in the second half, telling ourselves to pick it up on the defense end. We were able to get the ball out of (Kevin) Pangos’ hands and make some of those other guys create points for their team.”
The game would remain nip-and-tuck in the second half. Neither team held a lead larger than three until Gonzaga took a 54-48 lead with a 9-3 run. Oklahoma State battled back and tied the game at 56. A field goal by Smart put the Pokes back on top at 59-58 with 5:56 remaining. A dunk by Le’Bryan Nash expanded OSU’s lead to 61-58.
Oklahoma State had a great opportunity to take a two-score lead as Cobbins intercepted a pass in the post but Elias Harris gave the ball back to the Bulldogs. The Cowboys missed a shot and Olynyk scored on an offensive rebound to put the Zags ahead 64-63 with 1:34 left.
Smart would give the Cowboys the lead on an offensive rebound with just over a minute remaining. The Bulldogs responded as Gary Bell was wide open for a 3-pointer and sank it with 37 seconds left. Oklahoma State had another chance as Smart was fouled with eight seconds left. The freshman missed both free throws and the Bulldogs obtained the rebound.
Brown said the game was a good test for the Pokes’ upcoming Big 12 schedule which starts Saturday at Kansas State.
“We are going to use this game the next couple of days to prepare for (Big 12) teams like Kansas State,” Brown said. “Kansas State is ranked in the top 25 and it’s going to be another tough match on the road. We are just going to go out there and fight and get the win.”