Gonzaga coach Mark Few was more than familiar with OSU’s Marcus Smart, having coached him with Team USA and also facing him and the Cowboys in Stillwater a year ago.
So Few knew that contending with Smart would be a major focus, prompting immediate preparation in advance of their NCAA Tournament meeting.
“I mean, it started Sunday afternoon, you know, right when the matchup flashed up on the screen,” Few said of Selection Sunday. “We played Marcus last year in Stillwater and I was fortunate enough to be able to coach him in the USA Basketball stuff for a summer. So we knew what he's all about. He's a heck of a competitor and a heck of a physical presence.”
Smart finished with a monster stat line: 23 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and six steals.
But he also was held to a 5-of-14 shooting effort from the floor and committed six turnovers.
“I thought we did a pretty good job on him, you know?” Few said. “That's vintage Marcus, he's going to beat you any way he can, whether it's with rebounds — 13 boards … which is unbelievable.
“But it started with challenging our guys to step up and compete against him. It starts and ends with getting your competitive level up to that and we did.”
COWBOYS LAMENT MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
A lot went wrong for the Cowboys in their season-ending 85-77 loss to the Bulldogs.
Even some of the things that went right, turned wrong.
OSU, always a team built to take advantage of the rules changes aimed at freer offensive play, used its slashing skills to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line. Once there, however, the Cowboys made just 22 of 37 foul shots — 59.5 percent.
“We work on our free throws every day, every chance we can get,” said Le’Bryan Nash. “Every time we step on the court, we work on free throws. They weren’t falling. I don’t know what happened. I guess the basketball gods weren’t with us.