All the talk leading into this game was about Marcus Smart. Nobody was talking about Gary Bell Jr., the Zag who would defend him, and that proved silly from the very beginning.
Bell opened the game with back to back threes and a rebound. That was just the start for the Zags, who would hit their first 7 field goals to take a 17-6 lead. The first miss, a Kevin Pangos three, was rebounded by Kyle Dranginis who drew a foul in the process.
It was a game of runs. The Zags couldn't sustain 100% shooting from the field, obviously, and Marcus Smart wouldn't stay cold forever.
The Zags' 17-6 lead was cut to 17-16 in just three minutes. Gonzaga rebuilt it's lead, to 21-16 then 25-18, before the Cowboys again cut it to one point. Oklahoma State never got closer than one point. The half ended with a 9-1 run that gave the Zags a 43-34 lead. A nice way to balance the 9-0 run the Zags opened the game with.
Runs defined the half, but fouls defined the runs. Oklahoma State had 12 and Gonzaga 10 in the first. The Zags avoided foul trouble better than the Cowboys, but had more trouble at the line.
Oh, and Oklahoma State head coach Travis Ford was foolish and called for a technical foul with 11 seconds left.
Gary Bell had 12 points in the half, despite sitting for much of it with two early fouls. His defensive assignment, Marcus Smart, also finished with 12 points. But, Bell only played for 11 minutes.
Oklahoma State opened up the second half by playing, as Travis Ford said in the halftime interview, "agressive." The Cowboys quickly cut the Gonzaga lead to five, so the Zags ran it back up to ten. Another run battle seemed in the cards for the second half and all were overjoyed.
All except, of course, the zebras. There will be no excitement if they have their way. This game featured one flagrant, one intentional and one technical foul, all one the Cowboys. Combined, Oklahoma State and Gonzaga totaled 61 fouls. 46 of them came before the Cowboys implemented the hack-a-Przemek strategy.
I've spent quite a while trying to think of how to really explain the second half without just regurgitating stats, but it's really not possible. This was the ugliest half of basketball I've ever seen, it had no flow whatsoever.
Not even from the line, where so much of the action took place. Gonzaga shot a measly 63.4% and Oklahoma State 59.5% from the line. Down the stretch the Zags missed six in a row at one point, which became eight of 14.
Kyle Dranginis had a quietly magnificent game, if only because of his relative success at the line where he went 7-9. A victim of the excessive whistle, Dranginis fouled out at 1:25 with 12 points. Kevin Pangos was the only other Zag with a decent free throw shooting performance, 12-14, he finished with 26 points.
Gonzaga held a multi possession, often double-digit lead for the last ten minutes of the game. A combination of the Cowboys' inability to handle the Zags' size in the paint and neither team's ability to cash in at the line kept the lead from swinging in either direction.
In the end, five players fouled out. Three Cowboys (Le'Bryan Nash, Kamari Murphy and Leyton Hammonds) and two Zags (Dranginis and Sam Dower).
Final score: Gonzaga 85, Oklahoma State 77.
For the sixth straight year, the Zags win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Next up is a date with No. 1 Arizona on Sunday.