MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

OSU

December 31, 2012

OSU drops close one to Gonzaga

— STILLWATER – With an aggressive drive to the basket, Marcus Smart sent Gonzaga 7-footer Kelly Olynyk to the bench with his fifth foul and earned the chance to pull No. 22 Oklahoma State of the program’s most anticipated nonconference games at Gallagher-Iba Arena in decades.

That’s when it all went wrong for the Cowboys and their star freshman.

Smart missed both of his free throws with Oklahoma State trailing by two with 8.7 seconds left, and No. 10 Gonzaga escaped with a 69-68 victory on Saturday night.

“I was confident but sometimes it just doesn’t go the way you want it. That’s kind of what happened tonight,” said Smart, an 83 percent foul shooter on the season.

“I don’t really know what to say.”

Kevin Pangos scored 23 points and hit the clinching free throws after Smart’s misfires, and Olynyk scored all 21 of his points in the second half as the Bulldogs (13-1) completed a perfect five-game sweep of Big 12 competition. They had already blown out West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State before beating Baylor on Friday night.

Smart said he was trying to make the second free throw after missing the first, attempting to keep it a one-possession game after the Cowboys (10-2) fouled. Instead, Elias Harris grabbed the rebound and Pangos was fouled in the backcourt before drilling both free throws.

Phil Forte then connected on a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Oklahoma State.

“That did not cost us the game, by no stretch of the imagination,” coach Travis Ford said. “He made a lot of plays just to get us to that point. That’s one play out of a game.

“When you’re a player of that caliber, when you’re an All-American, you’re going to find yourself in that position. Sometimes it’s going to go your way, sometimes it’s not.”

Instead, Ford pointed to the rebounding disparity: Gonzaga had a 37-21 edge, including 16 on the offensive glass. Olynyk had seven offensive rebounds – and nine total – in the second half

“We did everything well but rebound. Everything,” Ford lamented. “It was one of the better offensive games we’ve played. We defended. ... It was just around the rim. They killed us around the rim.”

Olynyk, the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer, fought foul trouble in the first half but was able to play through it in the second half. The 7-footer had a pair of buckets off of offensive rebounds to put the Zags back on top, before Smart answered with a putback of his own for a 65-64 OSU advantage.

After an Oklahoma State timeout, Mike Hart set a screen to free up Gary Bell Jr. for a 3-pointer from the left wing that gave Gonzaga a 67-65 lead with 35.7 seconds left.

“I was wide open. When I had my feet set, it was automatic,” Bell said.

Smart led Oklahoma State with 23 points, Markel Brown contributed 16 points and Forte scored 15.

“We can play with those high-caliber teams,” Smart said. “Gonzaga’s a great team. They’ve beat a couple great teams. For us to come out there and keep it that close, I felt like that just proved a lot to ourselves and to a lot of people that Oklahoma State has a chance.

“Yeah, it’s not the outcome that we wanted but we’re going to take this as a learning lesson and improve on it.”

It stacked up as one of the most anticipated home, nonconference games in Oklahoma State’s history. Only four other top 10 teams had played at Gallagher-Iba Arena outside of conference play, and Gonzaga was the first ranked team outside of the Big Eight or Big 12 to visit Stillwater since Memphis in 1989. Louisville was the last top 10 team to play in the building outside of conference play, in 1980.

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