Kevin Pangos led the way with 26 points and Przemek Karnowski finished with 15 points and 10 boards as No. 8 Gonzaga knocked off No. 9 Oklahoma State 85-77.
Don’t let the final score deceive you, as this was one of the most miserable basketball games that I’ve ever been forced to watch. I don’t like ripping the referees, but I’m going to here. They were awful. Remember all those games early in the season where refs were trying to enforce the new contact rules and games turned into a parade of trips to the free throw line?
That’s what happened here, but it was worse. This was the NCAA tournament. Their performance was unacceptable, and it ruined what had the potential to be a terrific game, especially in the final 10 minutes. It was unwatchable.
But moving on to more important matters, congratulations go out to the Zags. They were more or less written off in this game as a result of the way that Oklahoma State played down the stretch of the season, and they came out and earned the win. They never trailed. Kudos.
For Oklahoma State, this was the end to a tumultuous, roller coaster season that saw Travis Ford’s club climb into the top ten and lose seven straight Big 12 games before rallying to earn an at-large bid to the tournament. It also will likely double as the end of Marcus Smart’s tenure in Stillwater, a career that saw Smart earn one more suspension that he did NCAA tournament wins.
It’s a shame to think about what could have been with this team. You’re not going to find a more talented trio than Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash that often at this level of basketball. But between the season ending achilles injury to Michael Cobbins and Stevie Clark’s off-the-court issues, there just was not enough depth on this roster to handle quality opponents. Foul trouble was always going to be the death of this team, and that’s precisely what happened on Friday.
The big question now becomes just how long Travis Ford will last in Stillwater. He’s losing Brown and Smart, and there’s no guarantee that Nash will be back, either. The fan base isn’t happy with him and there are too many empty seats in Gallagher-Iba Arena on a nightly basis.
If Ford couldn’t find a way to win big with this group, is he ever going to?
That’s a question that Ford will want to find a way to answer quickly.