By Anthony Slater – Aslater@opubco.com - @anthonyVslater
Oklahoma State closed out its nonconference schedule with a tough 69-68 loss to 10th-ranked Gonzaga on Monday night in Stillwater. Here’s some rapid reaction:
The deciding play in this back-and-forth affair came with 38 seconds left. Trailing by one, Gonzaga coach Mark Few diagramed the perfect play and his veteran team flawlessly executed it, leading to Gary Bell Jr.’s go ahead three. Kevin Pangos’ drive-and-kick opened up Bell, who was coming off a great pin-down screen, for the open look and easy game-winning triple.
It was over when…
…Marcus Smart’s marvelous game came to a crashing halt. The do-everything point guard, well, did just about everything for Oklahoma State in the final 20 minutes. But ask the ultra-competitive Smart what he’ll remember most from an impressive night, and it’s his final two foul shots. With a chance to tie the game with eight seconds left, Smart clanged both, dooming the Cowboys and leaving the frustrated freshman seething as the final seconds ticked off.
Star of the game – Kelly Olynyk
Acting as a double-agent, Quinn Sharp pulled double duty, starring as Gonzaga’s center on Monday night before he kicks for Oklahoma State tomorrow morning. But in all seriousness, Bulldog big man Kelly Olynyk (who bears a striking resemblance to the Cowboys’ strong-legged punter/kicker) was the definitive difference in this game. In the first half, Olynyk had no points or rebounds, struggling to stay out of foul trouble. But in the final 20 minutes, he went off for 21 points and nine rebounds, forcing OSU to double-team him and beating it any way. His dominance could speak to a bigger problem down the road for the Cowboys, who are light on frontcourt size.
Rising – Marcus Smart’s big game reputation
With his other five-star sidekick struggling, Smart once again rose to the occasion, going off for a career-high 23 points (on 9/15 shooting), six assists and four rebounds. During his first semester of college ball, the freshman has had two defining games. And both provided a positive glimpse into the future. Against 6th-ranked NC State in Puerto Rico, Smart dominated an All-American backcourt to burst onto the national scene. And on Monday against 10th-ranked Gonzaga, he was great again. In huge games, against tough teams, Smart is already developing a big-time reputation.
Falling – Le’Bryan Nash’s stock
As Smart’s stock rises, Nash’s drops. And it’s warranted. Before his team’s biggest game of the season, Nash missed a team meeting, forcing Ford to bench him at the start of the game. And once he was on the floor, a disengaged Nash struggled throughout the game. Overall, he shot a team-worst 4-13 from the field, compounding bad shot selection with bad body language.
Big 12 play kicks off Saturday, and it’ll be a challenging opener for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys travel to Manhattan for a big road test against #25 Kansas State. Along with OSU and Kansas, the Wildcats are the only other Big 12 team currently ranked.