Gonzaga-Oklahoma St. Preview
Gonzaga has only played one true road game this season, but is about to get a lot more familiar with life away from home.
The No. 10 Bulldogs will travel to Stillwater on Monday to play No. 22 Oklahoma State, the first of three straight contests on the road.
In its only previous road game on Dec. 5, Gonzaga (12-1) defeated Washington State 71-69 on a Kevin Pangos layup with two seconds left. The Bulldogs, who play five of their next six on the road, appear more than ready for the challenge, winning three games by an average of 15.0 points since losing to then-No.13 Illinois on Dec. 8.
They notched another solid victory on Friday with a 94-87 home win over Baylor. It was their fourth victory this season against a Big 12 opponent, as they have already dispatched West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State.
Pangos, the team's third-leading scorer (11.5 points per game), broke out in a big way against the Bears, finishing two shy of his career high with 31.
The sophomore had struggled in his previous six games, averaging 7.7 points while shooting 29.2 percent from the floor. He rediscovered his shooting stroke Friday, hitting seven 3-pointers and going 10 of 13 from the floor.
"I never was worried about him," coach Mark Few said. "As long as he just keeps shooting. He puts way too much time in the gym. He makes way too many in practice to worry about it. You got a guy that works hard at it, I don't think he was worried, or the staff was worried. It was due time for them to start going in."
Pangos wasn't the only one with a big offensive night for the Bulldogs, who are second in the country in shooting at 52.1 percent, as seven-foot forward Kelly Olynyk also came one shy of a season high as he chipped in 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting. Olynyk's 68.1 percent field-goal shooting is the country's third-best mark.
"He was very patient," Few said. "He took what they gave him. He didn't rush. He's maturing like we've talked about all year."
Gonzaga's high-powered offense will face a tough task against Oklahoma State, which owns one of the nation's top defenses in points allowed (55.5 ppg) and defensive field-goal percentage (35.8).
The Cowboys (10-1) have been particularly stingy in the first half lately, with their last two opponents each failing to score 20 points in the first 20 minutes. Oklahoma State allowed 19 first-half points in a 78-42 win over Tennessee Tech on Dec. 22.
They have also forced 51 turnovers in the last two games.
"We're really big on defense," said freshman Phil Forte, who had a season-high 22 points against the Golden Eagles. "We know that's something that is a strength of ours. Going into every game we try to take away what the other team does because there will be nights when, offensively, shots won't be falling. Your defense will always be there for you."
Oklahoma State has last all four meetings with Gonzaga, the most recent a 73-52 setback in Spokane on New Year's Eve 2010. Zags leading scorer Elias Harris (15.6 ppg) had a game-high 22 as a sophomore.