Gonzaga was hardly tested in its first two games of the season. That likely won’t be the case this weekend.
After an eight-day layoff, the No. 9 Bulldogs return to action to face undefeated Oklahoma State on Thursday night in the first round of the Old Spice Classic at the Milk House in Orlando.
Gonzaga (2-0) takes the court for the first time since rolling to an 80-46 home win over Idaho on Nov. 18, three nights after an easy 83-52 victory over Montana State-Billings. The Bulldogs hope the layoff won’t pose a problem as they take part in a tournament whose field is a combined 19-1 and features three other ranked teams.
A potential date with either Maryland or No. 5 Michigan State awaits in Friday’s second round, and No. 12 Tennessee and No. 21 Georgetown are also competing.
“It’s the best preseason tournament out there,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We’ll get a challenge in a lot of different ways.”
Gonzaga should have the talent to shake off any rust, especially in the frontcourt where 6-foot-10 sophomore Austin Daye is averaging 15.5 points with 9.5 rebounds and 6-11 senior Josh Heytvelt is putting up 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds boards per game. While the pair of big men has paced the Bulldogs through the first two games, this contest could be determined by guard play.
Led by reigning West Coast Conference player of the year Jeremy Pargo, senior Micah Downs (13.5 ppg) and junior Matt Bouldin (10.0), the Bulldogs boast one of the most complete backcourts in the nation.
“Nobody worries about who scores,” said Downs, who started his career at Kansas.
Gonzaga faces an Oklahoma State (4-0) squad that also relies on strong backcourt play, featuring a fine four-guard lineup paced by James Anderson (19.5 ppg, 7.3 rebounds per game), Terrell Harris (18.0 ppg) and Byron Eaton (17.5 ppg, 5.0 assists per game).
“They’ve got great guards, pressing all over the floor,” Few said.
Averaging 89.5 points and shooting 48.0 percent through four games, the Cowboys are coming off a 91-60 home victory over Grambling on Sunday.
Harris scored 23 points in that contest, while Anderson had 22 and Obi Muonelo added 10 and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma State, which like Gonzaga makes its first appearance in the three-year old event this weekend.
“We can go there and have a good showing which we expect to do. We’ve been working hard,” said Muonelo, the Cowboys’ fourth starting guard.
Gonzaga won both previous meetings between these schools by a combined five points.
Adam Morrison’s last-second bank shot helped the Bulldogs to a 64-62 victory over Oklahoma State in Seattle on Dec. 10, 2005. Gonzaga also defeated the then-No. 3 Cowboys 78-75 on Dec. 28, 2004 in Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma State went 2-7 versus ranked teams during a 17-16 2007-08 season.