At least for one night, the rowdy returned to Gallagher-Iba Arena.
With No. 10 Gonzaga venturing in as the first ranked nonconference opponent to play in GIA since 1989 — and the first top-10 nonconference foe in more than 30 years — a near-packed house was in place and clearly enjoying a battle of Top 25 teams, won in the final seconds by the Bulldogs, 69-68.
Cowboys fans, on New Year's Eve and with their football team due to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl less than 18 hours later, responded still, filling the lower bowls and much of the upper section, with only a scattering of empty seats in the corners.
“We're trying to bring the rowdiness back,” said OSU freshman Marcus Smart. “That's what we live for, big crowds like this and big moments.
“We thank the crowd for coming out and supporting us tonight.”
The big-name opponent and the gesture by Boone Pickens to buy 4,000 tickets and distribute them for free all played a part in the turnout, which was officially a sellout.
OSU's marketing department also placed free orange shirts that read “Bringing Rowdy Back” on 1,700 seats in the lower level.
“It was great to see,” said Cowboys coach Travis Ford. “Thanks to Boone Pickens and what he did to pack the stadium. I wish we could have gotten them a victory. I know the players are very disappointed about that.
“We appreciate the support, and we hope they come back because we're going to need it. We have a very young basketball team that needs all the help they can get.”
NASH DOESN'T START
Cowboys forward Le'Bryan Nash did not start for the first time this season, due to a minor disciplinary issue.
“Nothing serious or anything, just late for a meeting,” Ford said. “Nothing big.”
Still, big enough for Ford to sit Nash against the nation's 10th-ranked team.
“If you're going to be late,” Ford said, “there are going to be some penalties.”
Freshman guard Phil Forte made his first career start in Nash's place.
UP NEXT: KANSAS STATE
With the nonconference portion of the schedule complete, the Cowboys head for their Big 12 opener Saturday at Kansas State.
The Wildcats are 10-2 and ranked No. 25.
Tip time is 12:45 p.m.
ZAGS COMPLETE BIG 12 SWEEP
Gonzaga's nonconference schedule featured five Big 12 foes — West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor and OSU.
And the Bulldogs went 5-0, with the win over the Cowboys the tightest.
“This is a heck of a road win for us,” said Bulldogs coach Mark Few. “I mean, never experienced this place before. It's loud and the Cowboys play really hard and really inspired in here. To withstand all the rallies and to make plays on the defensive end and the offensive end and really get after them on the glass the way we did, just a great night for us.”