Gonzaga brings big test to OSU
BY MIKE BROWN World Sports Writer
Monday, December 31, 2012
12/31/12 at 5:27 AM
Marcus Smart will renew a recent acquaintance this New Year's Eve.
The Oklahoma State University freshman basketball standout played on the U.S. under-18 national team when Mark Few served as an assistant in Brazil last summer and developed a friendship with Gonzaga's head coach.
They chatted almost daily, and before they parted, Few wished Smart luck. He also reminded him that they would be seeing each other under different circumstances in the not-so-distant future.
That next meeting comes Monday, when Few brings his 13th-ranked Bulldogs to visit what the 22nd-ranked Cowboys hope will be a jam-packed Gallagher-Iba Arena.
"(Few) said he couldn't wait," Smart recalled. "(He said) it's going to an exciting game between two ranked teams, and obviously, the matchup between me and (Bulldog point guard) Kevin Pangos, he couldn't wait to see."
Pangos and Smart are rated among the nation's best distributors, and they won't be the only key matchup in a 5 p.m. contest nationally televised by ESPN2 (Cox 26).
OSU coach Travis Ford said he can't wait to see how the Cowboys will fare against Gonzaga's big men.
"I don't know of many teams in America that are gonna match up too well with them," Ford said. "They're not only big, their depth is big. They bring in two guys off the bench that are as good as their starting 4s and 5s, so their post play is as good as it gets. There's not a better committee of post players in America."
Gonzaga forwards Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk combine to average 30.8 points and 13.7 rebounds per game. The Bulldogs get another 8.8 points and 3.0 rebounds off the bench from 7-foot-1 freshman Przemek Karnowski and 7.8 points and 4.2 rebounds from 6-foot-9 junior Sam Dower, who has started seven games.
Nationally ranked for the past six weeks, the Cowboys could climb higher with a win. But Ford said he sees it not so much as a statement game as one "to find out where we are," and to prepare his team for Big 12 Conference play.
Monday's game is the last nonconference tuneup before opening league play Saturday at Kansas State.
Gonzaga is the highest-ranked nonconference foe to visit Gallagher-Iba Arena since OSU defeated a No. 8 Louisville squad 72-71 on Dec. 6, 1980.
The arena should be packed because T. Boone Pickens, the school's chief benefactor, bought up the final 4,000 tickets and offered them free on a first-come, first-served basis.
"I hope the fans will use 'em," Ford said. "We're gonna need all the help we can get. We look forward to this place being loud and exciting. It should be exciting, because you don't get too many top-25 teams together in an environment like this at this time of year."
Oklahoma State (10-1)
No. 13 Gonzaga (12-1) at No. 22 OSU (10-1)
5 p.m. Monday
Radio: KFAQ am1170
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos (center) is defended by Baylor's Gary Franklin during the second half of Friday's game in Spokane, Wash. Pangos scored 31 points in that game to lead the Bulldogs to a win. YOUNG KWAK / Associated Press