OKLAHOMA STATE VS. GONZAGA
When: 3:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Viejas Arena, San Diego
TV: TNT (Cox 31/HD 730; Dish 138; DirecTV 245; U-Verse 108/HD 1108)
Radio: KXXY-FM 96.1
INSIDE THE MATCHUPS
OSU — Marcus Smart (6-4, So., 17.8 ppg, 4.7 apg)
Gonzaga — David Stockton (5-11, Sr., 7.5 ppg, 4.2 apg)
Stockton has blossomed as a senior, becoming a playmaker as a floor general and passer, although he doesn’t shoot much or particularly well. Since returning from his suspension, Smart has returned to being a dominant force, averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 4.3 steals a game.
OSU — Markel Brown (6-3, Sr., 17.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Gonzaga — Gary Bell Jr. (6-2, Jr., 11.2, 2.9 rpg)
Brown’s ever-evolving game makes him a difficult matchup, as he can heat up from the perimeter, or soar to the rim, taking advantage of the NCAA’s new rules against hand-checking. Bell is the Zags’ shut-down defender. While he’ll be assigned mostly to Smart, he’ll likely spend some time on Brown, too.
OSU — Phil Forte (5-11, So., 13.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
Gonzaga — Kevin Pangos (6-2, Jr., 14.1 ppg, 3.7 apg)
Forte has been a key offensive factor for the Cowboys the past month and his ability to knock down long-range shots could be the difference in opening up OSU’s offense. Pangos is a veteran guard who — if healthy — can create so much for himself and teammates with his explosive quickness.
OSU — Le’Bryan Nash (6-7, Jr., 14.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Gonzaga — Sam Dower Jr. (6-9, Sr., 15.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg)
Nash’s ability to slither inside and score with either hand – with force – makes him a tough matchup for slower bigs, although he’s a bit of a liability on the defensive end. Dower has emerged as a key offensive player for the Zags, yet is more of a finesse player than a banger inside.
OSU — Kamari Murphy (6-8, So., 6.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
Gonzaga — Przemek Karnowski (7-1, So., 10.2, 6.9)
Murphy has grown used to banging with bigger players inside, to mixed results, mostly dependent on whether he’s in foul trouble. Karnowski is a big, strong and yet nimble center who can block and discourage shots in the paint. He’ll be as formidable a challenge as the smallish Cowboys have faced outside of Joel Embiid.
OSU — Brian Williams, Leyton Hammonds, Mason Cox and Christien Sager
Gonzaga — Drew Barham, Kyle Dranginis, Gerard Coleman, Angel Nunez
The Cowboys will lean more heavily on their regulars, although Williams is a former starter who has emerged from a slump to play better of late. Considering Gonzaga’s size, Cox could get some minutes to try and help in the post. The Bulldogs are deeper, with Dranginis a solid backup point guard who can shoot the 3 and dish.
OSU — 21-12 overall, 8-10 Big 12, No. 9 seed
Gonzaga — 28-6, 15-3 West Coast Conference, No. 8 seed
Both teams played some of their best basketball late, with the Cowboys looking more like the Big 12 contender they were projected to be, than the squad that lost seven straight at one point; and the Zags finishing off WCC regular-season and tournament titles. OSU figures to be more battle tested after a grind through the rugged Big 12. Gonzaga’s schedule — especially in conference — lacks quality.