Rushed Reactions: #8 Gonzaga 85, #9 Oklahoma State 77Posted by Andrew Murawa on March 21st, 2014
Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Battle of Match-ups. Coming into tonight’s game, each team had an apparent strength against the opponent. Gonzaga had a bunch of frontcourt size in Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski to throw at an undersized Oklahoma State front line. Meanwhile, there was no apparent solution on the Gonzaga roster for having to check both Marcus Smart and Markel Brown. The Cowboys were able to get plenty of offensive production out of their duo (to the tune of 43 points), but Gonzaga’s ability to throw the ball into Karnowski and suck the Oklahoma State defense into the paint provided a big advantage in the early part of this game.
- Gonzaga Balance. The Bulldogs feature excellent balance on the basketball court. They’re #16 in the nation in defensive efficiency and #46 in offensive efficiency. They’ve got two frontcourt guys at 6’9” or bigger who average at least double-figures and a trio of solid veteran backcourt players. Today, that balance was on full display. The Zags were able to throw the ball into Karnowski on a regular basis and get buckets, but when they needed a big play to stop a run, guys like Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. were there to knock in big jumpers. With 11 minutes left and Oklahoma State on a 7-0 run, Bell stepped into a three, and then mere seconds later, Pangos turned a steal into a layup to stop the bleeding. With 7:47, a Pangos three did much the same. The Bulldogs’ ability to get production from both inside and outside was the difference against a backcourt-heavy Cowboy team.
- Officiating. Of the three teams on the court today, the officials turned in the worst performance of the group. After a very entertaining first 25 minutes or so, the whistles came fast and furious from that point on. The low-point was a phantom flagrant foul on Le’Bryan Nash that earned him a fifth foul and a spot on the bench. Mixed in were several touch fouls, regular trips to the monitors to investigate rulings, and a complete loss of any flow to the game. Quite frankly, the last 12 minutes of this game were a chore to watch. Fourteen players had at least three fouls; this was in a game where only 15 guys played 10 or more minutes. All told, the final tally was 61 fouls whistled in the game.
Star of the Game. Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga. In a game featuring stunning athletic talents like Marcus Smart or big guys like Przemek Karnowski, the 6’2” Canadian proved you don’t have to be that big to make a big impact. Whenever Oklahoma State was putting together a run and looked like they were about to take over the game, Pangos stepped up with a big play to stop the run and get momentum going back in the Bulldogs’ favor.
Sights & Sounds. Quick Turnaround Between Games. In other sites across the country, there is something of a gap between the first session and the second session of games. Out west, that gap is rarely very long so that CBS/Turner can get all the games up in the heart of the day. On a day like today when 61 fouls led to a game checking in at somewhere north of two and a half hours, the gap between sessions is merely the gap between games two and three. Give credit to arena staff who were tasked with clearing out the arena, making the place presentable for the second batch of fans, and then ushering in the second group — all in less than 30 minutes.
Turning Point. 10-0 Run Spanning Half. With two minutes left in the first half, Oklahoma State had not led the entire game but had closed the gap to two-points, as Smart seemed on the verge of taking over. Smart then corralled a loose ball, but in an attempt to pass it off to a teammate, it was stolen by Pangos, who kicked it out to Drew Barham for a three. Following a missed three by Smart on the other end, Pangos came down and drilled another one. A Travis Ford technical ensued just before the half and instead of a one-possession game heading into the break, Gonzaga had opened up a nine-point lead heading into halftime. Add in an opening three in the second half and a two-point game had turned into a 12-point game, a 10-0 run wrapping around halftime in a game eventually decided by just eight points.
Quotable. ”It started on Sunday afternoon, right when the match-up flashed on the screen. We had played Marcus last year in Stillwater, so we knew what he was all about. He’s a heck of a competitor and a heck of a physical presence. I thought we did a pretty good job on him, but that’s just vintage Marcus, he’s going to beat you any way you can. It started with just getting out guys to compete against him.” – Mark Few, on game-planning for Marcus Smart.
Wildcard. Kyle Dranginis. A solid role player for the Zags in his two seasons in Spokane, the role that Dranginis accepted today was often to go out there and do his best against Smart, a future NBA lottery pick. At times it wasn’t pretty, as Smart was able to either overpower or outquick Dranginis in many instances. And he definitely used all of his fouls in his 29 minutes of action. But the sophomore was the Zags’ best defensive option and he did an admirable job of at least providing quality resistance to Oklahoma State’s star.
What’s Next? Gonzaga will face Arizona on Sunday in a match-up of top-tier West Coast programs for a chance to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. If the size and athleticism of Smart and Brown provided a challenge for the Bulldogs today, wait until they get a load of Arizona. As for Oklahoma State, the Smart era likely ends without an NCAA Tournament win and with Brown’s eligibility expired, the Cowboys will look very different next season.