With two of its top scorers bothered by injuries, Gonzaga is looking to some talented freshman to spark it offensively.
The No. 18 Bulldogs (9-2) travel to Oklahoma City to take on Oklahoma (8-3) on Thursday in the O’Reilly’s All-College Challenge.
Gonzaga has won two straight since losing 51-47 to then-No. 8 Washington State on Dec. 5. The Bulldogs defeated Northern Colorado 77-57 on Monday behind the contributions of two first-year players.
Four Bulldogs scored in double figures in the win, including two freshmen reserves. Austin Daye led the Bulldogs with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Steven Gray, who missed the first 10 games of the season after fracturing his wrist, had 12 points in 28 minutes in his college debut.
With injuries to Matt Bouldin and Jeremy Pargo, two Bulldogs starters averaging double figures in points, Gray found himself in position to see extended playing time.
“At first it was, ‘You’ll get some minutes at the end,’” Gray said. “Then Matt went down and they told me to be ready to go.
“You have to make the most of your opportunities.”
Gray’s return provides some relief for the short-handed Bulldogs. Gonzaga was already playing without star forward Josh Heytvelt, sidelined after undergoing foot surgery for a stress fracture, while Pargo has been bothered by a hyperextended knee. He had 10 points in 30 minutes Monday.
Bouldin, who sat out Monday with an ankle injury, tops the team with 13.3 points per game. His status for Thursday is uncertain, but he wasn’t listed in the starting lineup posted on Gonzaga’s official Web site.
Junior guard Micah Downs also gave the Bulldogs a lift Monday, scoring 17 points and shooting 5-of-10 from 3-point range.
This is the fourth straight season the Bulldogs have started 9-2. Last season, Gonzaga went on to lose its next four games.
The Bulldogs will try to avoid that scenario when they face a Sooners team coming off an 83-72 win over Arkansas on Saturday. Oklahoma, which bounced back from a 66-62 loss to Stephen F. Austin the week before, shot 50 percent from the field.
Five Sooners scored in double figures, led by 17 points apiece from Longar Longar and Austin Johnson.
Longar took a hard fall late in the game, but he helped spark a 7-0 run with two free throws and a blocked shot.
“He took a couple of bad falls but he kept getting back up. He kept playing,” coach Jeff Capel said. “We went to him and he delivered.”
Longar, second on the team with 12.4 points per game, has averaged 17.3 over the last three games. He added seven rebounds and four blocks Saturday.
Gonzaga is the third ranked opponent the Sooners have faced this season. They lost 63-53 to then-No. 3 Memphis on Nov. 15 and 66-55 to then-No. 22 Southern California on Nov. 29. Oklahoma has dropped six straight against Top 25 teams.
This is the first meeting between the Sooners and Bulldogs.