Battle of ranked foes pits Gonzaga against Oklahoma State

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The Oklahoma State Cowboys close out a six- game homestand on Monday afternoon when they entertain the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

After a 9-0 start to the season, Gonzaga dropped a battle of Top-25 teams to Illinois on its home floor on Dec. 8, 85-74. Since then however, the Bulldogs have bounced back with three straight wins over Kansas State (68-52), Campbell (74-52), and most recently against Baylor last Friday, 94-87. They have only played one true road game this season, but now they embark on a three-game road swing.

Oklahoma State has been able to maintain its status among the nationally ranked by winning 10 of its first 11 games, highlighted by impressive verdicts over Tennessee (62-45), NC State (76-56) and South Florida (61-49). Although the Cowboys have won each of their games on this homestand, they haven't been challenged by a quality opponent in weeks, having defeated Missouri State (62-42), Central Arkansas (91-63), Texas-Arlington (69-44) and Tennessee Tech (78-42) in their last four matchups.

These two teams have played four times in the past eight seasons, with the Bulldogs winning each matchup, including a 2010 New Year's Eve showdown in Spokane, 73-52.

Gonzaga's contest against Baylor was a shootout, especially in the second half when the teams combined for 110 points, but the Zags were able to outlast the Bears by shooting 52.5 percent from the floor and 23-of-34 from the foul line. Kevin Pangos went off for a season-high 31 points thanks to a hot night shooting from beyond the arc (7-of-10). Kelly Olynyk was also fantastic, going 9-of-12 from the field for 21 points, while Elias Harris (17 points) and Gary Bell, Jr. (12 points, five assists) were also impressive. The balanced effort was no accident for the Bulldogs, who score 81.8 ppg and rank second in the nation with a .521 field goal percentage. Elias (15.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Olynyk (15.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, .681 FG percentage) are a powerful duo in the frontcourt, while Pangos (11.5 ppg, 3.8 apg) and Bell, Jr. (10.6 ppg) are both strong outside shooters. Przemek Karnowski (8.8 ppg) and Sam Dower (7.8 ppg) are valuable role players.

Oklahoma State has been rather strong at the offensive end of the floor this season, averaging 72.1 ppg on 44.2 percent field goal shooting, but the biggest reason for its success has been a fantastic showing at the defensive end as it ranks 12th in the nation in both field goal percentage (.358) and scoring (55.5 ppg) defense. It was the same old story in the blowout win over Tennessee Tech, as it shot nearly 50 percent from the floor while forcing its overmatched opponent into more turnovers (20) than field goals (15). Phil Forte saw extended time off the bench and took advantage, shooting 6-of-11 from long range for 22 points. Kamari Murphy netted 12 points, Markel Brown and Marcus Smart each scored 11, and Kirby Gardner finished with 10 points and seven assists. Although Le'Bryan Nash (five points) didn't get involved much in terms of scoring, he still leads the team with 14.9 ppg. Smart, a freshman, is one of the most versatile guards in the nation, putting up 10.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.1 apg, 2.7 spg and 1.2 bpg. Brown (14.0 ppg) and Forte (10.9 ppg) round out a Cowboys' scoring attack loaded with options.